Football legend Zagallo dies aged 92

Getty Images/Matthew Ashton - EMPICS

Getty Images/Matthew Ashton – EMPICS

Zagallo, who died aged 92, during the 1997 Confederations Cup

He died last Friday (5), in Rio de Janeiro, Mário Jorge Lobo Zagallo, one of the biggest names in Brazilian football. Zagallo was 92 years old and had been hospitalized since the end of December.

“It is with great regret that we inform you of the passing of our eternal four-time world champion Mario Jorge Lobo Zagallo,” the family said in a statement. “A devoted father, loving grandfather, affectionate father-in-law, faithful friend, successful professional and a great human being. Giant idol. A patriot who leaves us a legacy of great achievements.”

In recent times, Zagallo had been hospitalized a few times, such as in August, when he was hospitalized for 22 days to treat a urinary infection. The cause of death, however, was multiple organ failure.


Zagallo was honored by the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), which decreed seven days of mourning. “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”, declared Ednaldo Rodrigues, president of the Confederation.

The clubs where Zagallo played also commented on his death. “Botafogo regrets the departure of one of its greatest idols, a champion as a player and coach, with a successful and notable CV in the sport, a true legend of Brazilian football. We wish strength to family, friends and fans.”

On its official account on X, formerly Twitter, Flamengo reported: “He left us a hero who shaped the history of Brazilian football. Mario Jorge Lobo Zagallo enters into eternity as a revolutionary, a historical pillar of the sport. (…) Brazilian sport has four-time world champion Zagallo as a pioneer and record holder. Flamengo has a historic idol in Zagallo. Thank you for so much, Old Wolf!”

Early career

Mário Jorge Lobo Zagallo was born on August 9, 1931 in the Alagoas municipality of Atalaia, but his family moved to Rio de Janeiro before he was one year old.

His father, Aroldo, was a businessman. He owned a weaving business and had already played football professionally, for the Alagoas team CRB. Aroldo wanted his son to study accounting. However, he was convinced by Fernando, Mário’s brother, to let the boy play ball.

The family lived in Tijuca, north of Rio. Zagallo passed through the América children’s team (his team for life), and was later accepted into the youth team. In 1949, at the age of 18, he obtained his first title, the Rio Amateur Championship and was part of the América team that won the Torneio Início do Campeonato Carioca.

Zagallo began playing professionally in 1950 after leaving the Army. His first contract was with Flamengo, where he would remain until 1958. He left the club and signed a contract with Botafogo, where he would remain until 1965, when he ended his career as a professional player.

He retired as a player in 1966 and was then hired by Botafogo to coach the youth team. In his four-decade career he coached the main teams in Rio, including Bangu. His only spell in São Paulo was with the unimpressive Portuguesa, in addition to having been coach of the Saudi Arabian, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait national teams.

Brazilian Team

In 1950, as a soldier in the Army Police, Zagallo helped with security at Maracanã during the final between Brazil and Uruguay, on July 16th. The Brazilian team was playing for a draw, scored the first goal and lost the championship against Uruguay. His long and often troubled relationship with the Brazilian team began there.

Zagallo played for the national team between 1958 and 1964. He participated in two World Cups, the 1958 World Cup in Sweden and the 1962 World Cup in Chile, both won by Brazil. Zagalo was part of a tactical innovation that would guarantee two World Cups for Brazil. His position was left wing, but he dropped back to reinforce the midfield. A player of average physical size, he made up for his lack of muscle mass with speed.

He was coach or coordinator of the National Team in three World Cups: 1970, 1994 and 1998, and served as coordinator between 2003 and 2006. In 1994, he was technical coordinator at the invitation of Carlos Alberto Parreira. Much criticized by the sports press, the team’s command won the World Cup played in the United States. “You’re going to have to swallow me!”, said Zagallo at the time, responding to the criticism. Alongside German Franz Beckenbauer and Frenchman Didier Deschamps, he was one of three athletes to win World Cups both as a player and as a coach.

Zagallo married Alcina de Castro on June 13, 1955, Saint Anthony’s Day, of which the bride was a devotee. They remained married for 57 years, until Alcina’s death in November 2012, victim of respiratory complications. Zagallo leaves behind four children, as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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