ESPN Soccer Stories: The Myth of Garrincha (2014)

Directed by Marcos Horacio Azevedo

As I continue to try to catch up with the remaining ESPN Soccer Stories films prior to the release of the next proper 30 for 30 film, The ’85 Bears which is set to release in late January, I came across the legend, or rather the myth, of Brazilian soccer star Garrincha. As I have stated in previous Soccer Stories reviews, my knowledge of the game of soccer and its history is essentially non-existent, which means with each of these films comes an education of sorts. I am forced to also take them at face value. I cannot remember the sensational play of Garrincha, and his subsequent downfall, so what I see here is what I get: a rather sad and unfortunate tale of one of Brazil’s greatest and most beloved players.

Brazil, of course, is a soccer hotbed. The most popular sport in the world, soccer is the national sport of Brazil, a powerhouse in the international game. While Pele, a name I am actually familiar with, has long been celebrated as one of the greatest players to ever play, it is a former teammate, Mane Garrincha, who holds the hearts of many Brazilians who consider him even better than Pele. Azevedo presents Garrincha’s story in fairly standard fashion, but given the time restraints of a short, 30 minute film, covers all the main bases of it. I’m just not sure the full story of Garrincha, based on what I saw in this film, really affords itself to the format, as I was left with some questions and a desire to know more about the man.

Tragic as his story is, a talented player in a nation hungry for soccer success, he denied the ability to medically treat the condition which saw his knees point the wrong way, which led to lifelong issues with his knees, ultimately cutting his career short. His personal life was also a heartbreaking fascination, as he dated a famous singer while leaving his wife and children behind, and was an alcoholic who started drinking when he was only 5 years old. The tragedy of Garrincha is that, as celebrated as he was, there was no on there to help him, and I’m not sure he would have let anyone help him even if they tried. It is always tough to see the fall of a once great star, with no one there surrounding him at the end to love and support them. The shower of love and admiration that came after his passing seems insignificant in the face of his loss.

**1/2 – Average

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