Brazil and World Say Goodbye to Old Wolf Zagallo, Four-time World Cup Champion

Brazilian football legend Mario Jorge Lobo Zagallo died aged 92 on Friday of multiple organ failure.

Zagallo won two World Cups as a player, one as a coach and another as an assistant coach for Brazil.

He became the first person ever to win the World Cup both as a player and manager back in 1970, and has been revered among Brazilian football fans for generations.

Brazilian soccer confederation president Ednaldo Rodrigues said in a statement early on Saturday that Zagallo “is one of the biggest legends” of the sport.

“We offer solidarity to his family members and fans in this moment of grief for the departure of this great hero of our soccer,” Rodrigues said.

Many Brazilian clubs where Zagallo played and coached also expressed their sorrow for his death.

A post on his Instagram page called him “a dedicated father, a loving grandfather, a caring father-in-law, a loyal friend, a victorious professional and a great human being.”

“A gigantic hero. A patriot that leaves us a legacy of great achievements,” the post added.

Player and coach

As a young boy, Zagallo wanted to become an airline pilot but could not pursue that due to poor eyesight. He then decided to become a footballer, despite some opposition from his father.

Zagallo was associated with nearly every major chapter in Brazil’s football history. He began his career in the 1950s as a striker with Rio’s America and later also played for Flamengo and Botafogo clubs. He played as the national team’s forward in 1958 when it won the World Cup in Sweden, and also in 1962 in Chile.

He stopped playing professionally in 1965 and began his career as a manager with Rio de Janeiro club Botafogo in 1966.

Zagallo was Brazil’s national team coach in 1970, becoming the first three-time champion and the first World Cup-winning player to then claim the trophy from the dugout.

The star-studded team in Mexico that year included players like Pelé, Jairzinho, Gerson, Roberto Rivellino and Tostao. Zagallo’s side won the final comfortably with a 4-1 win over Italy, and is still frequently mentioned in discussions about the best or most dominant World Cup winners ever.

More than two decades later, Zagallo served as assistant coach to Carlos Alberto Parreira when Brazil won in 1994 in the US.

And next time out, in 1998, Zagallo was back in charge as head coach, but Brazil lost 3-0 to hosts France in the final. This also rounded out a record five trips to the World Cup final for one individual.

His final coaching role with the national team was as Parreira’s assistant in 2006 in Germany, where Brazil lost in the quarter finals.

He was known for his unique personality and unapologetic nationalism.

Zagallo was known to be superstitious, and was fond of the number 13. His wife was a devote of Saint Anthony who is celebrated June 13. He said it was his lucky number because it carried the last two digits of his birth year, 1931. He got married on the 13th of the month, and once even joked he would retire from the game at 13:00 on July 13, 2013.

He was also known for his repeated use of the phrase “You will have to put up with me,” often used at his critics.

Zagallo, also known as Velho Lobo (old wolf), built his career closely linked to the Brazilian national team. It’s impossible to talk about the national selection without mentioning Zagallo. There is a kind of symbiosis, a connection that has lasted for decades.

Zagallo directly participated in four of Brazil’s five World Cup championships. He is the only four-time world soccer champion. Alone, Velho Lobo held more world titles than some of the globe’s most storied teams, including Germany and Argentina.

As a skilled left winger, he lifted the cups in 1958 and 1962, the first two Brazilian wins on the international stage. In 1970, he was the coach in winning the third championship, with Pelé being the king on the field.

After a 24-year absence, Zagallo participated in the fourth win in 1994, acting as an assistant coach to Carlos Alberto Parrera. He was also coach of the runner-up team in the 1998 World Cup, when Brazil lost the final to France 3-0.


News of Zagallo’s death generated national commotion and began a series of tributes. The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) declared an official mourning period of seven days.

“The CBF and Brazilian football mourn the death of one of its greatest legends, Mário Jorge Lobo Zagallo. The CBF offers solidarity to his family and fans in this moment of sadness at the departure of this idol of our football,” said the president of the CBF, Ednaldo Rodrigues.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said he received the news with sadness and remembered Zagallo’s importance for the World Cup.

“Mário Zagallo won four FIFA World Cups, as a player and then a coach; more than any other person. But his legacy cannot be summed up by numbers. Zagallo’s influence on football, and Brazilian football in particular, is supreme,” he said.

Brazil’s Ministry of Sport expressed its sadness and wished comfort to family, friends and fans in “this moment of sadness and at the same time of reverence.”

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said that Zagallo was one of the greatest football players and coaches of all time, a great winner and symbol of love for the Brazilian team and Brazil.

“Courageous, dedicated, passionate and superstitious, Zagallo was an example of a Brazilian who never gave up. It is this lesson and spirit of affection, love, dedication and overcoming that he leaves for our entire country and for world football,” said Lula.

Zagallo played football between 1948 and 1965. In the photo, he was wearing the shirt of Botafogo, a team from Rio de Janeiro where he ended his career

The last goodbye

Zagallo’s wake takes place this Sunday at the CBF headquarters, in Rio de Janeiro, and is open to the public. The burial will follow shortly afterwards, in a ceremony closed to family and friends.

There is a lot to thank Zagallo for and this was clear in the thousands of tributes posted on social media since the confirmation of his death — messages ranging from players and coaches, to football teams, fans and politicians.

It is impossible not to mourn the loss of Zagallo just one year after the death of Pelé, the king of Brazilian football.

Even with health problems in recent years, Zagallo never stopped following the Brazilian team. “Green and yellow never left my mind,” he said in a documentary made by FIFA in honor of his 90th birthday.

Extremely superstitious and attached to the number 13, Zagallo liked to play with phrases that had 13 letters. It’s all right, Velho Lobo. You can rest in peace, as Zagallo Eterno (eternal Zagallo) has 13 letters.

tg/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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