Remembering Marinho -- who smiled so brilliantly on the sport of soccer

By Paul Gardner

I find Jose Mourinho an irritant. Nothing more. His constant presence, his non-stop efforts to create headlines for himself, his not particularly interesting comments on world soccer -- always, it seems to me, carefully measured to make sure that he comes over as more important than Messi or Ronaldo or Suarez, to ensure that his name gets the spotlight. Mourinho says this. Mourinho denies that. Mourinho. Mourinho. Mourinho.

The name grates. Not that long ago -- a mere 40 years -- the name enchanted me. It was spelled differently. Marinho. The young blond Brazilian defender, the one with the tremendous smile, who brought the 1974 World Cup to life every time he got on the ball.

I had almost forgotten. Now I read the news that Marinho is dead at age 62. I sense the sun setting. Well, a sun, anyway. One that livened up the sport. Marinho did that, he did it in a tournament that was widely praised at the time, and is still remembered, as the one that gave us total soccer.

That was a good thing. I certainly thought so. A new emphasis on attack, that went down well with me. The Dutch and the Germans dominated. But Marinho was the player who caught my eye -- more than Cruyff, more than Beckenbauer.

Probably I sensed an overdose of intellectuality in the Dutch and the German play, the influence of the chess board in the tactical explanations that were now being erected to explain total soccer. Really, only Cruyff escaped that accusation.

Marinho, I was told later, was a child at heart, reckless, a boy who found it difficult to follow instructions. An improviser who played soccer as though he was inventing the game anew every time he got on the ball. Which, in a sense, he was. You never knew -- and, surely he never knew, what he was going to do next.

Bad news, I was told, you can’t play a team game like that. Not with that streak of crazy independence. You can’t? Yet there he was, on the Brazilian team, starting all six games, flying down the wing, beating opponents with speed and trickery, never subdued. And scoring marvelous goals.

That last bit sounds the warning. I checked. Marinho didn’t score any goals for Brazil in 1974. I think I know how I fell into that error. In 1979 Marinho signed for the Cosmos. Just the sort of spectacular player the team would welcome. And he did score some goals for the Cosmos.

But his Cosmos life didn’t last long. He was signed by the owners, the Ertegun brothers. Coach Eddie Firmani didn’t want him, found every reason not to play him. The Erteguns ran out of patience and instructed Firmani that Marinho was to play. For the first Cosmos home game, against Fort Lauderdale, he was in the lineup and he got off to the worst possible start by scoring a spectacular hat trick.

Those must be the goals that I recall -- goals that made Marinho even less popular with Firmani. Half way through the season, Firmani was out, replaced by Ray Klivecka, basically a college coach. Marinho disappeared from the lineup, demoted to the reserves.

I became friendly with Marinho -- I could speak with him in Spanish, listening to his complaints about the way he was being treated by the Cosmos. I asked Klivecka how Marinho was doing in the reserves: “OK. He’s adapting well.” Adapting? To what?

One midweek afternoon I set out to watch Marinho “adapting” in a reserve team game. “They’re playing in Garfield,” I was told. “Where’s that?” I asked. “That’s New Jersey.” OK -- but where was the field? “It’s Boilermaker Field,” and no, no one knew how to get there. Eventually I did find the field. Too late. A deserted, primitive soccer field. In just five years Marinho -- he was still only 27 -- had gone from being a World Cup star to playing on this forlorn Boilermaker Field in Garfield N.J.

Truth was, Marinho didn’t help his own case. Off the field, his sexual life was out of control. A playboy. The word was right, it told of both sides of his life. He played soccer like a boy, with the wonderful exuberance and happy spontaneity of a boy. And off the field he behaved with a playboy looseness that ended his Cosmos career after just one season.

It was also unfortunate for Marinho that his playboy antics meant that the Cosmos press corps -- already more devoted to celebrity doings than the mysteries of soccer -- never took him seriously as a player. The myth was fostered that Marinho never passed the ball, that he simply blasted it toward goal, always looking to add goals to his name. Some of his wilder shots sailed high over the goal, earning him the nickname mezzaninho. A good joke -- but a slur on a very good player.

I met up with Marinho two more times, years later, once in Dallas, once in Brazil. The sleek athletic body had gone -- it has always reminded me of the description of the werewolf boy in Saki’s brilliant short story “Gabriel-Ernest” -- the face was heavier, pudgier. But the smile was as powerful as ever. As was the memory of the smiling, truly beautiful and exciting soccer that this man, this Marinho, had once set before us. This Marinho, along with the lingering Cheshire cat smile, this is the Marinho, not this new too-clever-by-half Mourinho, who is lodged happily and rewardingly in my soccer memory.
12 comments about "Remembering Marinho -- who smiled so brilliantly on the sport of soccer".
  1. Bob Escobar, June 3, 2014 at 1:29 p.m.

    Paul, you remember well. my brother was also in he Cosmos reserve, he always told me, Marinho is a great player and deserve to be in the first team...I also thought my brother should be in the first team also, but Hispanics weren't treated right, coaches, mostly useless, unskilled college coaches, preferred college type players..."hustle", "kill yourself in every play", "send it" for just kicking it forward, "don't dribble", for not trusting forwards or midfielders for taking players one on one, etc etc.....and they also preferred BIG European players,rough and mean, but with zero skills....and if it was up to the coach, Pele, Chinaglia, Mifflin, Carlos Alberto, Neeskens, Bechenbauer or other great players the Cosmos had, they would not have played...unfortunately less known Hispanic players suffered. By the way, you are the most terrific futbol writer in American history, thank you for your contribution and eye opener to millions of American fans and players!!!

  2. Jim Romanski, June 3, 2014 at 1:33 p.m.

    I came across a very nice interview with Marinho on YouTube:

    Too bad he didn't live to see the WC in his home town this Summer.

  3. Carl Walther, June 3, 2014 at 4:40 p.m.

    Thanks for the great article. I remember watching him play as a kid. My father was a fan of his style of running on the field. Brings back a lot of memories of the original Cosmos.

  4. Gary Singh, June 3, 2014 at 5:32 p.m.

    I remember watching Marinho play for the Cosmos on TV when I was a kid. I was a left back and also #3, so I became a fan. r.i.p.

  5. Rick Estupinan, June 3, 2014 at 6:07 p.m.

    I ENJOY P.GARDNER articles very much.I do not agree with him in his persisting calling of the beautiful game,other than it's real name , World Football.Soccer is use by much of the media here,in a derogatory way,to differentiate it with the sport play here . As far as I am concern, this sport can be call anything but Football .

  6. Andres Yturralde, June 4, 2014 at 12:07 p.m.

    I had never heard of Marinho, but it's good to know some of you have. Thanks for the article, PG. It's very informative.

  7. Chris Morris, June 4, 2014 at 8:21 p.m.

    I too remember Marinho with the Cosmos and especially his patented long shots. Whether they ended up on goal or in the stands, it was always exciting. Thanks Paul -- and what other soccer writer but you could allude to Saki (or even know who he was)?

  8. Ramon Creager, June 4, 2014 at 9:51 p.m.

    I had the good fortune of being in Brazil from '72-'75. Like all my young friends, glued to the television or the radio, then in the streets pretending we were playing in the World Cup. Marinho played for Botafogo at the time (along with the more prominent Jairzinho), so I wasn't very familiar with him, being a Santos FC fan in Sao Paulo, but I do remember him from watching the Brazil national team. And I remember the national sadness when Brazil didn't make the final. Folks then took their Futebol very seriously! Those are some good memories. Thanks for writing about Marinho.

  9. Zoe Willet, June 5, 2014 at 12:19 a.m.

    You're being silly! Just look at what Mourinho has accomplished. He's brilliant, and you should have the maturity to appreciate his strategy.

  10. Woody Woodpecker, June 5, 2014 at 5 p.m.

    I remember him very well. As I recall he was a left back. Number 3, who was an excellent player, the whole Cosmos team during it's hay day, was incredible to watch. Bogi was quite the player. RIP....

  11. Jogo Bonito, June 7, 2014 at 6:13 p.m.

    Very Sad - Thanks again Paul ... He was one one my all-time favorites! I first saw him play on a fuzzy old b/w TV in 1977 in a WC qualifier for Brazil against Colombia. Brazil won 6-0 and through fuzz and intermittent UHF picture from channel 41 or 47 in Spanish I saw the 4th and 5th goals. They were both monumental blasts by Marinho. Both goals from at least 30 yards away!

    I found the game on youtube and it was great to see these amazing goals again!

    check it out :

    I was so excited to see him join the Cosmos and I rarely missed a game he played.

  12. Rick Estupinan, July 15, 2014 at 6:19 p.m.

    Jose Mourinho is a good honest men.For one thing he does not compromise with any body just to make someone else feel good.You are the irritant one,calling the most beautiful game in the planet 'Soccer'.You tell me what is Soccer any way.The D.Webster Dictionary's definition is Football,so why do you persist in calling the sport Soccer?Mourinho always refers it as Football,and so did your British counterparts who work for ESPN during the broadcasting of the world Cup.I guess it is all political correctness in your part.After all you have to protect the American dollar that you are been paid to work here doing your commentaries.

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