‘White Pele’ Zico turns 60 today
RIO DE JANEIRO (dpa) – Zico, Socrates, Falcao and Cerezo teamed together to create one of the best midfields that Brazil had ever sent to a World Cup. Despite scoring four of Brazil’s 15 goals at the 1982 World Cup in Spain, Zico could not lead the Selecao to the title.
And despite never winning a World Cup crown, Zico – more affectionately known as “White Pele” – will always be considered a legend among fans and forever idolised at his beloved Flamengo club.
Zico … one of the best Brazilian midfielders. AFP
On Sunday, he turns 60.
Zico is actually a nickname. Arthur Antunes Coimbra, who was born on March 3, 1953 in Rio de Janeiro as the youngest of six siblings, was often belittled and called “Arthurzinho” or “Arthurzico”. His cousin Ermelinda shortened the name and called him “Zico”. And it stuck.
Even as a child, Zico’s heart belonged to the Rio club Flamengo, for whom he would play for nearly two decades and score 509 goals in 732 matches. In the 1970s and 1980s, he was considered one of the most skilled finishers, best passers and most feared free kick specialists in the world.
Zico, who was also called Galinho (Little Rooster) because of his running style, played at three World Cups for Brazil – 1978 in Argentina (third place), 1982 in Spain and 1986 in Mexico (quarter-final loss to France).
“I’m happy to have been part of a team like that,” Zico said in an interview with fifa.com looking back to the 1982 World Cup, where Brazil were bounced in the second phase by eventual winners Italy after a memorable 3-2 defeat.
“People everywhere still remember us. But I’d be even happier if we’d have won.”
Zico also made his mark as a coach.
He guided Japan as national team coach at the 2006 World Cup in Germany and also managed for clubs Kashima Antlers (Japan), CFZ do Rio (Brazil) Fenerbahce Istanbul (Turkey), Bunyodkor Tashkent (Uzbekistan), CSKA Moscow (Russia) and Olympiacos Piraeus (Greece). His last post was as Iraq’s national team coach, until November 2012.
During his managerial career, Zico earned 173 victories, 64 draws and 63 defeats.
The Flamengo club has prepared a T-shirt for Zico’s special birthday in the club’s red and black colours. The back side includes a list of the numerous regional, national and international titles that Zico won with Flamengo.
Zico does not know if he will return to the coaching bench after he turns 60. After all, he has five grandchildren.
“I want to spend more time with them. That is something that I could not do with my (three) sons,” said the legend.