In 1981, the legendary Zico almost single-handedly took Liverpool apart in the Intercontinental Cup final in Japan. This week, the Brazilian turned 61 and he could think of no greater honour than having an entire samba school pay tribute to his career during Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival.
Often referred to as the ‘white Pelé,’ a term he didn’t like, Zico is considered one of Brazil’s greatest ever players despite never winning the World Cup with the Selecao.
With Rio’s Carnival in full samba swing, the Imperatriz Leopoldinense school paid tribute to the former Brazil and Flamengo star, with his life and career inspiring their performance in the parade at the Sambadrome, coinciding with his 61st birthday.
The Parade floats portrayed the life of the ‘Little Rooster of Quintino’, and recount his history as ‘the great idol of Flamengo’ and his performances at the iconic Maracana.
Zico, who took part in the procession, told AFP: “This is one of the greatest tributes one can receive. For a Brazilian, a samba school parade is right up there with a World Cup.”
“The relationship between football and samba is total. To play well, you need to know to move flexibly, move your hips like the samba.”
Born Arthur Antunes Coimbra in the neighbourhood of Quintino Bocaiúva, Rio de Janeiro, Zico made 504 appearances for Flamengo between 1971 and 1983. It was a golden period for ‘Mengo,winning six Rio State titles and three Brazilian Championships. In 1981, Flamengo won the Copa Liberatadores qualifying for the Intercontinental Cup where they met European Cup winners Liverpool in the final.
The Liverpool side including greats like Kennedy, Hansen, Dalglish, and Souness had beaten Real Madrid in Paris to set up the clash with the Rio de Janeiro side.
A reluctance on the part of European teams to play in South America, meant the game was staged on neutral territory. On the 13th December, 62,000 packed into the National Stadium in Tokyo.
Zico was named man of the match with the midfielder having a hand in all three goals as the Brazilian side proved too strong winning 3-0 against the European champions.
Zico scored 52 goals in 72 appearances for Brazil, making him the fourth highest goalscorer for the Selecao. He played in three World Cups, in 1978, 1982, and 1986. Although not a winner, the 1982 squad is considered by many, particulary in Brazil, as the greatest international side in history. Despite his four goals in the tournament, Zico and his team-mates lost out to Italy in the second round.
Zico later managed the Japan national team and Fenerbahçe in Turkey among other teams.
You can watch Imperatriz Leopoldinense’s parade here