Jairzinho - Brazil's 'Mr. Football'

In the long history of the game, if one were to crystallise all the finer aspects of the game into one shape, the vision of Jairzinho flashes before the eye, making him "Mr. Football".

Jairzinho, dribbles past two Uruguaian players during the 1970 World Cup semifinal.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Football found its finest self expression through players of high skills, tenacity, intelligence and tough physique which could sustain all these concomitants. They came from Brazil, Uruguay, Hungary, Italy and other places. In this context, it is good to remember the gifted ones who played the game with great distinction and finesse, who lifted the game out of the rut or out of the quagmire that it tended to get into, at times. Who are these players, who represent the true spirit of football in all its pristine glory and its time-honoured purity. Pele... yes, to a large extent. with his tremendous vitality and versatility, but in later years, showmanship, the lure of money, particularly through advertising contracts, etc, would tend to take away the vote from him.

Garrincha, Didi, Hidegkutti ... each one of them unimaginably versatile and yet, falling short of the norm, perhaps a wee-bit because each one had his shortcoming like, lack of temperament; of organisation or even a touch of selfishness; Di Stefano .... you hate his guts! of the trio: Amidst all this, there is a trio who would be dead-heated in this hypothetical contest Stanley Matthews. Britain's incomparable winger; Djalma Santos, the cool-headed and almost self-effacing Brazilian full-back or the highest calibre and Jairzinho, the explosive Brazilian forward, who should get the photo-finish verdict from the other two.

 

For his physical attributes, mental make-up and technical competence, which (all put together) were a little bit more than his illustrious predecessors. Yes in the long history of the game, if one were to crystallise all the finer aspects of the game into one shape, the vision of Jairzinho flashes before the eye, making him "Mr. Football". Mexico 1970 brought out the best in Jairzinho for he provided the craft and pace in the middle, which along with the criss-cross of his high calibre colleagues Pele, Tostao. Rivelino, Gerson and the rest of them gave no chance to the opponents, particularly Italy in the final.

Though many would rate him as the finest right winger the game has ever known, even above the magnificent Garrincha, his first and most ardent wish has been to play at inside-right, now known as right striker. He was a truly exceptional striker of the ball, though his tremendous dash and facile crosses marked him out equally as a great winqer.

Top scorer

Jairzinho was one of the most shrewd players ever to don the daffodil yellow of Brazil's national team. Living in the shadow of Garrincha posed problems for him. Both were in that ill-fated Brazilian squad to Britain in 1966. Garrincha faded out and Jairzinho flourished after that and Mexico proved it to the hilt. As the team surged to what was probably the most technically satisfying of their World Cup triumphs, the powerful Jairzinho scored in every match, and with seven goals in six matches, he topped the scorers' list. Apart from ball-control, which seems to be inborn with the Brazilians, this versatile forward displayed bravery of the highest order on the field. He had been battered and bruised by almost all the best left-backs of the world. But they all lived to regret it as at one time or another, they were made to look stupid by a yellow express train that thundered past them, and was later identified as a human dynamo called Jairzinho.

Explosive assaults

Jairzinho, like most of the Brazilian stars, started his career with Botafogo and straightway (in 1961) made his mark as a right winger of rare merit. But with Garrincha right there in the team as the established right winger, Jairzinho, moved inside, in the club matches and developed his prowess to unleash those explosive assaults on the goal. He was deadly in Mexico but as a right winger.

In Munich in 1974 he got the role that he liked, that of leading the Brazil attack. But by then he had lost the punch that he showed in his play in Mexico. And finally when he withdrew from the game he was doing well in business through wise investments with the same efficiency and method that he used when playing percentage football in his heyday. He presents a picture of a well conditioned footballer, taking the shortest route to the target, with fluent dribbles and precise and accurate passes, moving on electric heels with and off the ball and delivering the final blow with power and fluency from all directions and angles. Would a side want a more accomplished player or could the game itself ask for a greater exponent of all its intricacies!

Gallery of Greats: Sportstar series on World Cup heroes