• Winner of two World Cups, the Brazilian Didi passed away 20 years ago (May 12, 2001)
  • Best player in Sweden 1958, ahead of Garrincha and Pelé
  • His nickname: Príncipe Etíope (the “Ethiopian Prince”) because of his elegance on the pitch

In the locker room, Didi addresses his friend and Botafogo teammate in a low voice: “We have to do something”. Nilton Santos nods. It took six editions before seeing the first goalless draw in the FIFA World Cup ™. Held in check by the English, the Brazilians are at bay.

Didi and Nilton Santos have already tasted the bitterness of an early elimination against Hungary four years earlier in Suisse. On the final day of the group stage, they face another European superpower, the Soviet Union, which will win UEFA EURO shortly after. Didi approaches the course of the thirties; Nilton Santos is three years his senior. The two men know that time is now on their side.

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That evening, accompanied by Bellini, they attempt a coup unimaginable for the time: they show up at Vicente Feola’s door to beg him to establish Zito. According to them, his presence will allow Didi to benefit from greater freedom in the midfield to support Garrincha and Pelé.

The Brazilian coach is finally convinced by their arguments. Become untouchable, the Selection Inflicts shock therapy on the USSR, which owes only to Lev Yachine’s talent to avoid a correction (2-0).

Brazil won the tournament in stride. The whole world still remembers the exploits of Garrincha and Pelé, as well as the 13 goals of Just Fontaine. However, none of these three is voted best player of Sweden 1958. This honor goes to Didi.

Four years later, without Pelé, who misses the first matches due to injury, Didi splashes the competition with his talent and offers Brazil a second consecutive coronation.

Did you know ?

  • At 14, Didi was injured during a game with friends. The wound quickly became infected and the future world champion narrowly escaped amputation. He will still spend six months in a wheelchair.
  • Dodo, Didi’s brother, is no stranger to his success. Both are wearing the colors of Rio Branco, an amateur team from Campos dos Goytacazes, when Madureira, who plays in the first division of the State of Rio de Janeiro, decides to recruit Dodo. The young man asks Didi to accompany him to help him settle down. Impressed by his talent, recruiters offered to give him a try and offered him a professional contract. Dodo will be released six months later.
  • Didi is the author of the very first goal at the Maracana. Eight days before the kick-off of the 1950 FIFA World Cup Brazil ™, the stadium was officially opened during a match between a selection from Rio and a selection from Sao Paulo. It was on this occasion that the Fluminense midfielder made history again.

It was Didi who taught me how to take free kicks. Not only did he teach me the ‘dead leaf’ technique, which he himself invented, but he also made me an ambidextrous player.

Teófilo Cubillas

An eternal “dead leaf”

Didi is one of the promoters of the free kick in “dead leaf”, this strike which falls or suddenly changes direction as the goal approaches. As such, he is considered to be one of the great specialists in floating strikes, very popular with players such as Juninho Pernambucano, Didier Drogba, Andrea Pirlo, Cristiano Ronaldo, David Luiz, Gareth Bale or Hakan Calhanoglu. The origin of this technique is, however, much less known.

“I injured my ankle against America,” said Didid. “I took some rest, I took care of myself, I went to see the physiotherapist, but I still couldn’t kick the ball without feeling a great pain.”

“Then one day, by chance, I pulled curiously, using only three toes, and it didn’t hurt at all. It intrigued me. I tried the experiment again and , there, I noticed that the balloon suddenly changed direction, after having traveled a certain distance. “

“This try was far from perfect, but I quickly realized that by pushing, I could get a very complicated shot for the goalkeepers to stop. So I got down to work; I spent hours on it on morning and I started again in the afternoon. I continued, until I found the right formula. “

“In 1957 we faced Peru in the World Cup qualifying match. We were doomed to win. I scored the first goal on a dead leaf shot. Who knows what would have happened if I didn’t. wasn’t hurt that day against America? “

Did you know ?

  • After having contributed to the qualification of Brazil for Sweden 1958, Didi was very nearly excluded from the final phase because considered too old to hold a place in midfield. “It would be great to leave me at home, while I was the one who bought the ticket,” laughed the person before the composition of the team was revealed.
  • When Sweden leads in the final of the 1958 edition, Didi takes the ball under his arm and leaves quietly towards the central circle. Worried about the turn of events, his teammates urge him to hurry. Zagallo walks up to him and shouts: “Hurry up, old man, we’re losing!” Didi retorts, without losing his calm: “Relax, Zagallo. We are the strongest. We will score a lot of goals today”. At the final whistle, Brazil won 5-2.


Author Nelson Rodrigues nicknames him Ethiopian prince (the “Ethiopian Prince”) because of his elegance on the pitch. This characteristic earned him to be compared to the famous jazz musician Louis Armstrong, while the European press presented him as Mr. Football during Sweden 1958.

In club

Didi spent seven years in Fluminense. During this period, he notably won the Copa Rio 1952 (a tournament bringing together eight teams from seven different countries). His visit to Botafogo is marked by three coronations cariocas and a victory in the Rio-Sao Paulo tournament.

Between the two, Didi stops at Real Madrid. Unfortunately, the not very warm welcome reserved for him by Alfredo Di Stéfano, the other megastar of the time, decided him to cut his stay short.

The magazine Scoreboard ranks Didi 13th among the greatest footballers of the 20th century, ahead of Zico (15th), Bobby Charlton (18th), Lothar Matthäus (20th), Marco van Basten (26th) and George Best (27th). Turin newspaper Guerin Sportsman As for him, he is in 29th position, behind eleven former Italian internationals

Revered in Peru

At the end of his career, Didi took a final freelance at Sporting Cristal and developed a passion for Peru. He became the club’s coach in 1967, and immediately won the championship, before being named national coach in 1969.

Peru had been invited to participate in Uruguay 1930, but they had never conquered their qualification for a World Cup on the field … until Didi validated his ticket to Mexico 1970, nose and beard from Argentina. In the final phase, the White-red invites himself in the quarterfinals, before falling against Brazil (4-2).

“Didi was like a second father to me,” says Teofilo Cubillas. “He helped me enormously. He hadn’t lost any of his technique and he gave me very valuable advice. My free kicks and my strikes owe him a lot. He also recommended me to work. on my weak foot.

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