When former Fifa World Player of the Year Ronaldo takes up his new post at Sir Martin Sorrell’s advertising agency WPP next month, he will join a team of Brazilian legends who followed atypical careers once they hung up their boots. Here Alex Bellos, author of Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life, considers four others.
1. Marcos Carneiro de Mendonça
Brazil’s first football heartthrob, Mendonça was the national team’s goalkeeper for its first game, a 2-0 win over Exeter City in 1914, and an important member of the team that won Brazil’s first international tournament in 1919, the South American Championship (now the Copa América). On retiring he became an academic historian, specialising in Brazil’s colonial period.
Augusto captained the national team in 1950 when Brazil first hosted the World Cup. Defeat to Uruguay in the final game was a national trauma, described in the local press as the country’s greatest peacetime disaster. Augusto went on to join Rio’s Special Police, a feared division founded in 1932 whose purpose was to keep public order during turbulent political times.
In retirement, Brazil’s most famous player Pelé may have advertised pills (Viagra), but Tostão, his fellow striker in the 1970 World Cup, has prescribed them. After retiring early from football because of an eye injury, Eduardo Gonçalves de Andrade went to university to study medicine, qualified as a doctor and worked anonymously in Belo Horizonte until the 1990s. He now writes erudite columns on sport for the broadsheet Folha de S Paulo.
While many Brazilian players are known by their nicknames, Socrates really was called Socrates, and it prophesied a career as the thinking footballer. A medical student when he turned professional, he helped instigate a leftwing political movement at his club Corinthians which became a focus for the national campaign against the country’s dictatorship. He captained the national team at the 1982 World Cup; on retirement, set up a medical clinic; and has also released a music album, written a book and kept up his interest in leftwing politics, writing a column for Carta Capital, the Brazilian equivalent of the New Statesman, until his death in 2011.
Talisman of Brazil’s 1994 World Cup victory, Romário was as famous in Brazil for his cockiness as for his goals. In a career spanning 24 years he scored more than 1,000 goals, including junior games, a milestone only surpassed in his homeland by Pelé. When Romário ran for congress in 2010, most commentators assumed he was only interested in self-promotion, but since he took his seat he has been one of the country’s most outspoken and hard-working MPs. He has been heavily critical of Fifa and corruption within the Brazilian FA, which sets him apart from fellow greats such as Pelé, an Honorary Ambassador for the 2014 World Cup, who is always happy to toe the establishment line.