ALAN ROUGH mourned the passing of Brazilian legend Socrates yesterday and declared he’d have been right at home playing in Scotland.
Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish also revealed how he was inspired to change his ways after coming up against the Brazilian – before learning the midfield maestro smoked 40 a day and drank like a fish.
Socrates, the elegant playmaker who captained his country at the World Cup in 1982 in Spain, died in the early hours of yesterday morning in Sao Paulo at the age of just 57.
He passed away from septic shock resulting from an intestinal infection after being rushed to intensive care at the Albert Einstein hospital on Saturday.
It was the third time in four months the renowned heavy drinker and smoker had been rushed to hospital.
Local media said his latest trip was caused by food poisoning that also made his wife and other relatives sick, but he suffered most because his digestive system was so ravaged.
Most Scotland fans remember Socrates from the World Cup in Spain as he masterminded a 4-1 victory for the Brazilians over Jock Stein’s side, who had taken a shock lead in Seville through David Narey.
The South Americans were later eliminated by Italy and are still regarded as the greatest team not to have won the tournament.
Rough was between the sticks in the Estadio Benito Villamarin as goals from Zico, Eder, Oscar and Falcao underlined the gulf in class, but one player stood out.
Rough said: “We were in the tunnel waiting to go out for the game, Brazil in their trademark yellow shirts and those tiny blue shorts. Socrates stood there looking like a Greek God.
“He was called for the drugs test after the match and turned up with two bottles of lager in one hand and a cigarette in the other. So much for the idea of Brazilians being model pros – he had all the credentials to play for Scotland.
“He absolutely strolled through the game that night. Another legend has gone and it’s so sad and a real shock that he has died at such a relatively young age.”
Villa boss McLeish made an appearance from the bench that night and was left gobsmacked when he saw how Socrates fuelled his body.
He said: “We were asked to give a sample for the drugs test and were there for two hours drinking water and even flushing toilets in a bid to make us go.
“Big Socrates walked in with a fag dangling between his lips and two fingers in the top of two beer bottles. He provided a sample immediately, turned round and told us: ‘You played a good game – good luck,’ and off he strolled.
“We all sat after the match and contemplated where we needed to improve to even come close to matching the Brazilians.
“They were so fluid and mobile and we told ourselves we had to give up the bevvy and fags and start thinking more about diet.
“The argument didn’t seem to hold much weight after that appearance from Socrates.
“His death is so sad. Socrates was a genius on the field and part of such a great Brazilian side.”
Socrates admitted to being a heavy drinker, even when he starred as a player, but claimed to have quit the booze after a spell in hospital earlier this year.
He stood out on and off the field. He became a doctor after retiring from football and became a popular TV commentator and columnist, renowned for unique and controversial opinions.
Socrates, whose full name was Socrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira, starred for Corinthians in the early 1980s, but also played for Flamengo, Santos and Fiorentina. He was included in FIFA’s list of the best 125 living footballers in the world, compiled by countryman Pele. He played 63 times for his country, scoring 25 goals.
Socrates, survived by his wife and six children, briefly coached and played for Garforth Town in England in 2004 and his younger brother Rai helped Brazil win the 1994 World Cup in the USA.
Italian strike legend Paolo Rossi denied Brazil a place in the semifinals in Spain with a hat-trick in his side’s 3-2 win in a secondstage match still regarded as one of the best ever played.
He said: “Socrates seemed like a player from another era.
“You couldn’t place him in any category – on the pitch and even more so off it. He was unique from every point of view.
“He was a very dynamic player with sublime skill but most of all great intelligence.”
Simon Clifford, the man who was responsible for taking Socrates to Garforth, was quick to pay his respects.
He said: “Another sad weekend for football with the passing of our friend Socrates, wonderful player and principled man.”
Former Brazil and Barcelona playmaker Rivaldo added: “Sad to wake up and find out that Socrates has died.”
The Brazilian FA revealed the final round of league games yesterday would be played in Socrates’ honour.
The great and good of Brazilian football paid tribute to Socrates after his sudden death at the age of 57 yesterday morning.
Elegance and intelligence made him a unique figure in his homeland former team-mate Zico said: “He a spectacular guy. He was one of best players I ever played with.”
Retired Brazil striker Ronaldo said: “Sad start to the day. Rest in peace.” Former Barcelona ace Rivaldo said: “Sad to wake and find out Socrates has died.”