On a Tuesday morning the sun and the rain took turns to make their presence felt, Zico spoke to HT about the present, past and future of Brazilian football.
How does Brazil turn around after the World Cup?
A: For starters, we need to focus on creative players. We have chosen players with strong physique and those who understand the tactical aspects of the game. What was missing was the creativity. Brazil has made the mistake of giving a lot of importance to players based in Europe.
As a media pundit during the World Cup you were quite a strident critic of Brazil but did you expect the 7-1 rout?
A: Well, I thought we would lose by a maximum of four! Brazil started badly against Croatia, was equally poor against Mexico, beat Cameroon all right but not as convincingly as they should have what was the weakest African team in the competition and they should have been knocked out by Chile. The only game they did play well was against Colombia but the opposition was weak. So when they ran into tough teams (Germany and Holland in the third place playoff), well, you know what happened.
Also, was the Brazil team walking on an emotional tightrope after Neymar’s injury?
A: They acted like stars but stars who preferred to be seen on television rather than on the field. It looked like the team comprised more of celebrities than footballers, I mean with all that crying.
Do you think Brazil lost its football identity after the 1982 and the 1986 World Cups and that led to the kind of team they put out in 2014?
A: We lost our identity because we lost in those World Cups. But what I don’t know is why Brazil has to keep changing its way of playing. Especially, when all the World Cup winners say they want to play the Brazilian way. Spain said that, Germany said that. You must have a proper format to make quality players... Maybe also, for a lot of Brazilians football is now a profession. There seems to be no expression of joy.
Did Brazil miss out on the chance to appoint a foreign coach after Mano Menezes in 2012?
A: No, I think we have enough qualified people back home. Mauricy Ramalho and Tite (Adenor Leonardo Bacchi, the former Corinthians coach) are two names that immediately come to mind.
But they didn’t get the job after Luiz Felipe Scolari was sacked?
A: What happened was a big mistake. The problem of the Brazilian federation is that they are run by a group of people more keen on looking after each other.
How does it feel to be immortalised with statutes at Flamengo and at the Kashima soccer stadium in Japan?
A: (Smiles) It means they have recognised what I have done for them. I was part of some historic victories at these clubs and they have ensured that it stays recorded for ever. There is a statue of me at the Maracana too where I have scored so many goals. It got to a point where I used to be criticised for playing well only at the Maracana!
Are you happy with being called the White Pele?
A: I don’t like it at all. Never did. I am very happy when people think highly of me but Pele is a legend. The French media nicknamed me and it caught on. Things got to a point where people expected me to do what Pele did. I am individual by myself and I got the impression that people wanted to watch Pele. Zico is Zico.
Was the 1982 Brazil World Cup team the best ever after 1970?
A: That’s for you in the media to judge, I can only say it was the best selection I played in. We didn’t win but we made a great impact. (Later at the media conference, Zico compared it to the 1954 Hungary and the 1974 Holland World Cup sides).
How do you evaluate Socrates? Was he the best you have played with?
A: One of the best definitely and I was fortunate to play alongside him. Socrates took to football late in life; he hadn’t decided to be a professional as a youngster. He was not someone who was pushed into football as a youngster. For him it was something he liked doing. So his approach to football would always be different. That’s why he was the thinker and the philosopher he was.