"Garrincha" Documentary Holds to the Myth, the Legend
By Young Kim
ESPN’s 30 for 30 premiered “The Myth of Garrincha”, a documentary about the highly decorated yet extremely troubled Brazilian superstar Manuel Francisco dos Santos whose game paved the way for stars like Pele and Ronaldinho.
The film glosses over his achievements in the 1958 and 1962 FIFA World Cup along with his highlights in his career with Botofogo. The documentary also details his relationship with Brazilian singer Elza Soares and his destructive battle with alcoholism, which led to his death in 1983.
There’s no player in the history of football whose life on the pitch contrasted so starkly from his life off the pitch. It’s hard to believe that a free spirit, who had so much harmony with the ball, lacked that same harmony in his everyday life.
Judging by the grainy clips from the 1958 and 1962 World Cup, viewers would be mesmerized by the way Garrincha controlled the game with his deft dribbling and ability to create his own shot. He fooled the opposition with his technique in the similar manner the Harlem Globetrotters do to the Generals on the basketball court.
Yet, upon learning that he had one knee bent inward, another knee bent outward and his left leg being 6 centimeters longer than his right, the story of his ability to overcome such physical defects and be the world’s best is inspiring. Instead, his story is a tragedy.
The film did a great job with the restrained time limit to construct the narrative of Garrincha’s life without exhausting the key elements that most fans remember him for to this day. Director Marcos Horacio Azevedo did a solid job in keeping the story in balance and tried to get his perspective that Garrincha should be remembered as a victim rather than a culprit for his downfall.
Perhaps Garrincha was a simple man who loved football and thrived on passion but was a victim to the fame and media, which led him to drown it out with alcohol. That could be true.
It’s easy to criticize the film for trying so hard to protect the myth of Garrincha and constantly state that he was a victim to the world, but upon observing the information provided from the film again, it’s really hard to tell whether Garrincha was capable of even preventing his downfall on his own strength.
Given his circumstances growing up with no shoes, education, or money in his pocket, the transition into becoming the most famous football star in the world is a stark contrast to his previous lifestyle.
What does he know about trust? Who taught him about responsibility or being held accountable for his actions? How can he prevent himself from falling victim to greed?
Given Garrincha’s circumstances, he had no one and that’s why the documentary portrays him as a victim.