CSTB’s fave football story of the of past weekend wasn’t Arsenal or Chelsea’s failure to gain any ground on each other, and it certainly wasn’t QPR’s 6-1 capitulation away to Leeds. Rather, it’s the tale of Brazil’s ’82/’86 World Cup captain Socrates making his debut at the age of 50 for Garforth Town of the Northern Counties League. From the Yorkshire Post’s Chris Waters :
The score was 2-2, the home team had just missed a penalty after squandering a two-goal lead and the occasion seemed set up for this legendary figure of yesteryear who had spent the previous 78 minutes watching his new Garforth colleagues from the dugout dressed in his kit, a tracksuit, three T-shirts, a coat, a scarf, a woolly hat and a pair of black gloves, into which had been pressed several cups of piping hot coffee and the respectful handshakes of innumerable wellwishers.
“I hear it’s 28 degrees in Sao Paulo.” came a shout from the 1,300-strong crowd, Garforth’s biggest in its 40-year history. The comedian, however, was wasting his breath: Socrates doesn’t understand a word of English.
Consequently, a man who won 63 caps for his country and who represented Botafago, Corinthians, Fiorentina, Flamengo and Santos could not have appreciated arguably the most bizarre moment of a day during which there were several contenders for that auspicious title.
Announcing the player’s arrival in deadpan tones, the man on the public address system said blankly: “Substitution for Garforth Town, ladies and gentlemen. Replacing number two, Matt Higginbottom, is number six, Socrates.”
(Socrates, then and now)
The surreal nature of events at the well-appointed Wheatley Park stadium was compounded as the clock ticked and the home side searched in vain for a winning goal.
Elderly men who had stood on the exposed, windswept touchlines for more years than they would care to remember suddenly found themselves exhorting “Give t’ball to Socrates! Give t’ball to Socrates!”
His first touch, a 25-yard right foot shot struck with power and dip, drew a good save from the Tadcaster goalkeeper and a roar of appreciation from spellbound fans.
For the rest of his cameo, however, Socrates appeared content to let others do the running around while he struggled to acclimatise to the penetrating cold. “The second I got out on the pitch I suffered a terrible headache,” Socrates confided afterwards through an interpreter. “Unfortunately, the cold was very bad. I don’t think I’ve experienced anything like it.”
As for the game itself “ it ended 2-2 “ the man who is in England for 10 days to support the work of Simon Clifford, Garforth’s owner and manager who runs more than 600 Brazilian-style football schools for youngsters, said: “It was much faster than the type of football I’m used to. It was a lot more competitive and keenly fought but I really enjoyed it and it was an interesting experience.”