World champion with Brazil dies at 92

Zagallo, the first person to win World Cups as a player and coach, has died. He was 92 years old.

He was in five finals, a figure that has not been equaled. He won two as a player (1958 and 1962), one as a coach (1970) and another as an assistant (1994).

Tite, former Brazil coach, visited Zagallo to listen to his advice before leading the team to the 2018 Russia and Qatar 2022 World Cups.

The only person to win four World Cup titles was the last living member to start in the 1958 World Cup title victory.

Zagallo died on Friday night after multiple organ failure as a result of several comorbidities, according to the Barra D’Or Hospital in Rio de Janeiro in a statement. The local press reported that he was hospitalized after Christmas.

For many Brazilians, Zagallo was synonymous with patriotism, dedication and glory.

Ednaldo Rodrigues, president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), confirmed the death in a statement issued early Saturday. The leader considered that Zagallo “is one of the greatest legends” of the sport. The funeral will take place on Sunday at the confederation facilities.

“We offer solidarity with his family and with the fans in this moment of regret for the departure of this great hero of our football,” commented Rodrigues.

Several Brazilian clubs where Zagallo played and coached also expressed their condolences.

Zagallo’s social media considered him “a dedicated father, a loving grandfather, an attentive father-in-law, a loyal friend, a victorious professional and a great human being.”

“He was a gigantic hero, a patriot who leaves us a legacy of great achievements,” the text adds, without giving more details about the death.

Zagallo was hospitalized for more than a month in 2005 after stomach surgery. Four years earlier, he received medical care for a cardiac arrhythmia while coaching Flamengo de Rio de Janeiro. He spent 12 days in a hospital before the 2014 World Cup with a back infection, and was released just in time to watch the opening match.

Zagallo was known for his superstition with the number 13 and his use of the phrase “you’ll have to put up with me,” which he hurled at anyone who dared to criticize him.

The president of Brazil Luis Inácio Lula da Silva indicated on social networks that Zagallo was “one of the greatest footballers and coaches of all time” and “a symbol of love for the national team and Brazil… Brave, dedicated, passionate and superstitious, Zagallo was a model for Brazilians, who never gave up.”

He began his career as a forward with the America club in Rio de Janeiro and later also played with Flamengo and Botafogo, the Rio team in which he had Nilton Santos, Garrincha, Didí and Amarildo as teammates. That team was one of the few in Brazil that in the 1960s could stand up to Pelé’s Santos.

Zagallo was the forward of the Brazilian team that won the 1958 World Cup in Sweden and 1962 in Chile. Furthermore, he was one of the first footballers who served as a midfielder, placing himself between the midfielders and the forwards.

He hung up his boots in 1965 and began his coaching career the following year with Botafogo. In 1970, he was called to take charge of the Brazilian team just before the World Cup in Mexico, and inherited a squad that included figures such as Pelé, Jairzinho, Gerson, Rivelinho and Tostao. Brazil defeated Italy 4-1 in the final and became the first three-time champion of the tournament.

He was also coach of Brazil in Germany 1974, but, without Pelé, the Verdeamarela finished fourth.

Between 1976 and 1978, Zagallo coached the Kuwait team, in 1981 he took charge of Saudi Arabia, and nine years later he helped the United Arab Emirates qualify for the World Cup in Italy.

Zagallo was an assistant to Carlos Alberto Parreria in the 1994 World Cup, in which Brazil beat Italy in the final to win its first title in 24 years.

Four years later, Zagallo was once again Brazil’s coach at the World Cup in France, where Brazil lost the final 3-0 to the hosts. That match was famous for the seizures Ronaldo suffered in the dressing room, and Zagallo was later criticized for allowing the striker to play despite his health problems.

“The doctors gave him the go-ahead to play,” Zagallo explained. “Anyone in my position would have done the same thing. “I wasn’t going to be the one to ban him from playing in the World Cup final.”

Parreira called Zagallo again as an assistant in 2006, when Brazil arrived at the World Cup in Germany as a favorite with stars like Ronaldinho, Kaká, Ronaldo and Adriano. However, that squad was a bust, and lost to France in the quarterfinals.

Zagallo was one of a few coaches who had successful spells with Rio’s big four clubs — Flamengo, Fluminense, Botafogo and Vasco da Gama.

He always said that 13 was his lucky number because it had the last two digits of the year of his birth, 1931, and he never missed an opportunity to highlight any coincidence between 13 and his successes as a player and coach.