Socrates, the Brazilian soccer great and medical doctor who transcended the sport through his involvement in Brazil’s pro-democracy movement, died on Sunday in Sao Paulo at age 57. The cause
was septic shock from an intestinal infection. He had been hospitalized three times in the last four months. In recent interviews, he had described liver problems related to decades of heavy
Fans of Socrates mention his name in the same breath as Brazilian soccer greats like Pele, Ronaldo and Romario. But unlike those players, he was never part of a World Cup championship team. The team he captained at the 1982 World Cup was considered among the best to play the game, but it lost to Italy, 3-2, in the second round.
Emerging in the 1970s as a promising young player in Ribeirão Preto, in the interior of Sao Paulo State, he studied medicine while playing for provincial teams before attaining his medical degree at 24. After that, he moved to Corinthians, the famous Sao Paulo club with a big following among Brazil’s poor.
Known to his fans as Doctor and Big Skinny, a reference to his spindly 6-foot-4-inch frame, Socrates arrived at Corinthians at a time of intense political activity in Sao Paulo, a period when anger and resistance were coalescing against the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil. Socrates, in addition to organizing a movement advocating greater rights for Corinthians players, spoke at street protests in the 1980s calling for an end to authoritarian rule. That movement helped usher in a transition to democracy.