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Mario Zagallo, World Cup winner for Brazil as player and coach, dies at 92


Jan 6, 2024


Mario Zagallo, who won two World Cups as a player, one as a coach and another as an assistant coach for Brazil, died Jan. 5 at a hospital in Rio de Janeiro. He was 92.

A medical statement said Mr. Zagallo died of multiple organ failure.

He was the first person to win the World Cup both as a player and a manager, as well as the only person to win four World Cup titles in various roles. He was the last living member of Brazil’s starting team in its first championship victory in the tournament in 1958.

One of the most charismatic and superstitious figures in Brazilian football, he was known for his fondness of the No. 13 and constant use of the phrase “You will have to put up with me” — voiced loudly at critics.

Mr. Zagallo said 13 was his lucky number because it carries the last two digits of his birth year: 1931. He always highlighted any link, however coincidental, between 13 and his football successes.

Mr. Zagallo played a role in nearly every major chapter in Brazilian football history, from its World Cup title in 1958 to the tournament it hosted in 2014. Former Brazil coach Tite visited him to hear his advice before taking the team to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. (France was the tournament in 2018; Argentina in 2022.)

He was Brazil’s forward when it won the World Cup in 1958 in Sweden and 1962 in Chile, and one of the first players to act as a false winger, playing between midfielders and strikers.

Mr. Zagallo stopped playing professionally in 1965 and began his coaching career with Rio de Janeiro club Botafogo the following year. Named national team coach in 1970, just before the World Cup in Mexico, he inherited a squad that included Pelé, Jairzinho, Gerson, Roberto Rivellino and Tostão. Brazil crushed Italy 4-1 in the final, becoming the first three-time champion.

He also coached Brazil in 1974, but without Pelé, the team finished in fourth place.

Mr. Zagallo was assistant coach to Carlos Alberto Parreira when Brazil won the 1994 World Cup in the United States, again beating Italy in the final. Parreira many times said he felt as if the team had two coaches, such was Mr. Zagallo’s influence in his squad.

And he was back at the helm four years later for the World Cup in France, when Brazil lost 3-0 to the hosts in a final marked by striker Ronaldo’s unexplained convulsions before the game. Mr. Zagallo was criticized for letting Ronaldo play.

“He was cleared to play by the doctors,” Mr. Zagallo said. “Anyone in my position would have done the same thing. I wasn’t going to be the one keeping him from playing in a World Cup final.”

His final coaching role with the national team was as Parreira’s assistant in 2006. Brazil was a pretournament favorite to win its sixth World Cup title in Germany. But the squad led by Ronaldinho, Kaká, Ronaldo and Adriano fell to France in the quarterfinals.

Mr. Zagallo’s feat of being a World Cup winner as player and manager was later matched by Franz Beckenbauer with West Germany (1974, 1990) and Didier Deschamps with France (1998, 2018).

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said on his social media channels that Mr. Zagallo was “one of the greatest soccer players and coaches of all time” and “a symbol of love for the national team and Brazil … Courageous, dedicated, passionate and superstitious.”

Mr. Zagallo was one of the few coaches who had successful coaching stints with all four traditional Rio clubs — Flamengo, Fluminense, Botafogo and Vasco da Gama.

He began his career as a striker with Rio’s America and later also played for Flamengo and Botafogo, one of the few Brazilian clubs which rivaled Pele’s Santos in the 1960s.

Mr. Zagallo was hospitalized for more than a month in 2005 after undergoing stomach surgery. He spent 12 days in a hospital just before the 2014 World Cup because of a back infection, released just in time to watch the opening match. He served in an ambassadorial role for that tournament.

Mr. Zagallo was hospitalized for 22 days in August of last year due to a urinary infection. Upon his return to his home in Rio, he was filmed in a wheelchair.

“We are stronger than ever!,” he wrote on his social media channels, which ended in his career motto. “You will have to put up with me!”


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