Jairzinho: more than just the Hurricane

THE Brazil team of 1970 is widely regarded as the greatest football team ever. The lineup boasted the likes of Pelé, Rivelino, Carlos Alberto and Gérson, a side with incredible individual talent as well as impressive managerial discipline from Mario Zagallo. This is a team that epitomized the beauty of football; this team is known for showing the Jogo Bonito with excellence, it was akin to well-orchestrated classical music with all the instruments playing in harmonious unity. Zagallo managed to put a team together that played attacking free-flowing football with exchanging of positions, quick passing and dazzling skill.

The style of play was successful, indeed, because of the players and their class. Pelé played his best World Cup and cemented himself as arguably the greatest footballer of all-time, Rivelino had the skill and the feints to open the space, Carlos Alberto with his willingness to attack and Gérson as the midfield maestro. However, there was one player who didn’t carry the technical ability of his teammates but was one of the most important in this team: Jairzinho.

Despite Jairzinho’s ability with the ball he wasn’t the most technical player within the side, yet he had a huge impact on the 1970 World Cup. An exceptional attacker with all the attributes that made him one of the best. The Brazilian had the pace, the strength, athleticism and braveness. Jairzinho was the destroyer that every team needs, a player that is willing to do the dirty work. In a team that played like classical music, Jairzinho was the sound of typical rock and roll. Despite this being an under-appreciated quality in the football world Jairzinho did get the recognition he deserved, not just on the football pitch, but in history.

Jairzinho was born in the capital of Samba, the city of Rio de Janeiro. It’s a place that creates a stereotype about Brazil: natural beauty in abundance, beaches, nice weather and more importantly: football. Jairzinho made his name playing for Botafogo, a team from Rio de Janeiro and grew up beneath the neighbourhood in the southern area of the city. When Jairzinho made his debut for the Fogão he had a difficult mission: to replace the legend Garrincha.

The Brazilian was up for the job and replaced his idol with an unexpected level of ability. Jairzinho made the absence of Garrincha feel less influential in the Botafogo squad. Not only did Jairzinho replace Garrincha at club level but he also achieved this feat in the Brazilian national team. Having already played in the 1966 World Cup, where Brazil had a miserable campaign, in 1970 Jairzinho was already a household name in Brazilian football and became one of the icons in the campaign of the Tri.

By the time of the 1970 World Cup, Brazil was living in tension both as a national team and a country. The president at the time General Emilio Médici was requiring the call-up of forward Dadá Maravilha against the will of manager João Saldanha. It was a time where the military regime had a big impact on Brazilian football, with the league having more than 80 teams in the top-flight as a favour for the state’s chief politics. Médici was a big fan of football and having an impact on the national team was a political manoeuvre to gain more authority and use the team’s success as political propaganda.

After João Saldanha famously claimed that the football was his business and Médici’s business was managing the ministries, he was sacked by the football association, obviously by influence of Médici. In Saldanha’s place came Zagallo, who had won the World Cup as a player and a move that turned out to be greatly successful. Zagallo created the philosophy of the Jogo Bonito and saw in Jairzinho a different player that could adapt to the style. Jairzinho didn’t have the classy aura of his teammates but he was certainly a player that would fit into any team; he was simply unstoppable.

Despite rumours that his place in the squad was under threat, Jairzinho had a role in the team that nobody could perform better. His explosive diagonal runs created space, annoyed opposition defenders and together with the creativity of his teammates, created loads of opportunities for the forward.

During the World Cup Jairzinho entered the record books not only for going home with the Jules Rimet trophy but for becoming the first ever player to score in every single match (in the six game format) a feat that is still unmatched to this day, although the format has altered slightly.

Although Jairzinho didn’t win the Golden Boot, he received a nickname that defined him: O Furacão da Copa or, in other words, the Hurricane of the World Cup.

Brazil arrived in Mexico with high expectations and looking for redemption after the horrible World Cup in England ‘66. With names like Pelé and Rivelino, you wouldn’t expect less from the Canarinho. Brazil made their debut against Czechoslovakia in Group 3, a group that also contained England and Romania.

The Canarinho debut wasn’t going to plan despite having chances to go in front early on. After 11 minutes, Ladislav Petras opened the scoring for the opposition. However, Brazil hit back with a free-kick from Rivelino and went in front with a goal coming from Pelé in the second. But as expected, a one goal margin isn’t always safe. Then came Jairzinho. After a long ball from Gérson Jairzinho started his bursting run and picked up the ball in the front of the Czechoslovakian area before calmly lobbing Ivo Viktor. The goalkeeper had ventured outside of his area to prevent Jairzinho from scoring but could not stop the ball nestling in the back of his net. The goal gave the Brazilian’s a priceless victory and a moment to celebrate for The Hurricane.

However, the best was still to come. Brazil’s fourth goal and Jairzinho’s second encapsulates what the attacker was about: skill and power. In the dying embers of the game Jairzinho picked up the ball in the centre circle and started his brilliant run by leaving an opposition defender on the ground. What followed was a sequence of brilliant feints, another defender left on the ground and a clinical yet brilliant finish to score. This goal is the reason why Jairzinho was called the Hurricane; once he started, nobody could stop him.

The biggest game of the group stage followed where Brazil faced one of the tournament favourites and reigning champions England. The Three Lions defence consisted of players like Bobby Moore with goalkeeper Gordon Banks the last line of defence. Together with the talent of Bobby Charlton and Geoff Hurst in the attacking end, the champions looked strong. This wasn’t going to be an easy win for Brazil.

In a match that is better known for Gordon Banks’s save on Pelé’s header, Jairzinho once against shone and scored the only goal of the game to leave the England defenders deflated. After Pelé brilliantly controlled the ball in the middle of England’s box, the King only had to roll a pass for Jairzinho, who strongly slotted the ball into the top left corner giving Brazil an important winner against their biggest group rivals.

Jairzinho was simply unstoppable against England. Sir Alf Ramsey declared that Jairzinho was harder to mark than Pelé. Jairzinho was never tired and he would never relent. This was a part of his personality and his biggest trait as a footballer.

The last group match against Romania also proved to be tough with Brazil winning 3-2. Once again, Jairzinho’s strike was key to earn the win for his side, putting Brazil in front after Romania opened the scoring and Pelé equalised. Jairzinho was on the end of a cross from Paulo Cesar and scored the key goal to give Brazil their third win in the group stage.

Waiting for Brazil in the quarter-finals were their South American rivals Peru. At that time Peru were one of the best South American teams, another intriguing and tough fixture for the Brazilians. However, this World Cup was meant to return to Brazil and they accomplished their job outstandingly well. After the first 45 minutes Brazil had a 2-1 lead that came through goals from Rivelino and Tostão. The second half turned out to be very difficult for Zagallo’s side. Despite Tostão scoring a third for Brazil, Peru hit back with Cubillas.

Then came Jairzinho again. After a brilliant pass from Rivelino Jairzinho picked the ball on the left, ghosted past Peru’s keeper and calmly finished from a tight angle, showing once again his big moment pedigree and booking Brazil’s place in the semi-finals against Uruguay.

20 years had passed since the Maracanazo, arguably the biggest tragedy in the history of Brazilian football alongside the 7-1 that would happen 34 years later. The ghost of the defeat in front of nearly 200.000 people at the Maracanã still existed. The semi-final clash against Uruguay was a chance of redemption for the Canarinho, a chance to exorcise the demons that came with Alcides Ghiggia’s winning strike 20 years before.

It was on June 17th 1970 that Brazil had the chance of defeating their South American rivals and secure their place in the pinnacle match of world football. Things didn’t start so well for Brazil, as Uruguay opened the scoring after 19 minutes through Luis Cubilla, stunning 51.000 supporters in the Jalisco. However, this Brazil team was not one that would give up. In fact, they would come at the opposition with even more hunger, a sign of things to come.

Brazil managed to level the score after a brilliant goal by Clodoaldo. Those days, a defensive midfielder didn’t have the habit of going into the box or making explosive runs forward. However, that Brazilian team broke paradigms. After a brilliant pass by Tostão, Cloadoaldo placed the ball into the back of the net with a high quality volley.

It was only a matter of time until Brazil took the lead. There was one man for the big occasion, one man when the going was truly tough: Jairzinho. He always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, he always looked like a deciding factor for any team he played for and this was the case against Uruguay. After another brilliant assist from Tostão, on a move that combined quick passing and skill, Jairzinho picked up the ball near the centre circle, made a bursting run and finished cold-blooded past goalkeeper Mazurkiewicz.

Brazil would score another goal through Rivelino to kill the game, booking Brazil’s place in the final and leaving behind the ghost of ‘50. Despite the notable joy in the player celebrations after the final whistle, there was still one last hurdle against Italy in the final.

Playing against the Italian Catenaccio, the final in 1970 was the perfect showing of the Jogo Bonito. The final at the Azteca had high expectations, considering Brazil had played one of the best styles of football the world had seen to that point. And it didn’t disappoint.

The Canarinho opened the scoring after 18 minutes, after a throw-in from Tostão, a brilliant cross from Rivelino and an equally great header by the King Pelé. The show had just started. In an attempt to counter Italy’s resilient defensive style Brazil would attack, overloading men forward and with quick passing to break the Azzura’s lines.

Italy would get back in the game with a goal by Roberto Boninsegna after Brazil’s defence had a communication problem, leaving Boninsegna with an open goal to score. However, nothing would stop Brazil and Jairzinho on that day.

With the score level at the break, Brazil increased their pace and started a massacre. The second goal came through a Jairzinho assist after the Hurricane went past a couple of Italians and left the ball to Gérson, who struck a brilliant shot from outside the box. It didn’t end there.

To kill any chances of Italy getting back into the game, Brazil needed their killer. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. After a brilliant pass from Gérson, Pelé passed the ball to an explosive Jairzinho running into the box who scored Brazil’s third and killed any chances of a comeback. The celebration was passionate; it showed how much that World Cup meant for Jairzinho, it showed the pride he had of wearing the famous yellow and blue uniform. It epitomized the passion from the man who scored in every single game on Brazil’s triumph in Mexico.

Brazil would score a fourth goal and it became the most iconic of this final. Rightfully so. A Brazil attack saw Pelé with the ball before he noticed full-back Carlos Alberto making a run. Pelé passed the ball with perfect weight, only for Carlos Alberto to hit a screamer and put the icing on the cake.

Brazil lifted their third World Cup and went home with the Julies Rimet indefinitely after winning it three times. Those players were immortalised and one in particular achieved something that nobody else has achieved. Jairzinho scored in every single match, finishing the tournament with seven goals. Even though he didn’t win the Golden Boot, Jairzinho will always have a place in football’s extraordinary history.

Despite winning the Libertadores with Cruzeiro in 1976, playing in the 1974 World Cup and having a spell in France with Olympique Marseille, the 1970 World Cup cemented Jairzinho’s status as a national footballing hero. His feat and his seven goals in this conquest were key for a successful end.

The qualities Jairzinho had are hard to find, and in this modern day he teaches some of the values a footballer should always have; commitment, desire, passion and more importantly endeavour. This is why Jairzinho is a lot more than the Hurricane and will always be remembered as a football icon.

By Gabriel Coelho with artwork by @declassebr

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