After togging out, Socrates comes in from the cold

IT was a far cry from the carnival atmosphere and soaring temperatures of Rio for Brazilian football legend Socrates, who came out of retirement at the weekend for lowly Garforth Town.

Still sporting a greying version of his trademark beard, but with a noticeable girth, the 50-year-old delighted a record crowd with a cameo appearance at the club’s Wheatley Park ground, in west Yorkshire for a crunch league clash.

With temperatures hovering around zero, the midfielder peeled off his tracksuit 33 minutes into the second half as the Northern Counties East League First Division side were drawing 2-2 with Tadcaster Albion in the top of the table clash.

Wearing the Garforth Town Brazil-style strip of yellow shirt and blue shorts, Socrates announced his arrival with a thundering 20-yard attempt within a minute of taking the field. But the attempt was stopped by Tadcaster keeper Tom Ryder.

As captain of the 1982 Brazil World Cup side, which is widely regarded as the greatest team never to win the World Cup, he was well known for his shock of black hair, his beard and his tall gangly frame.

More than a few pounds heavier today, he played up front, and, while he had a number of touches within the first few minutes of his substitute appearance, he was largely anonymous for the last 10 minutes of the match, which ended 2-2.

Despite the disappearance of last week’s snow which fell in the area, Socrates accepted a series of body-warming garments as he sat through most of the game on the bench.

Garforth Town coach and owner Simon Clifford, who brought him to the club, gave him his overcoat, which the legend accepted with some protest.

One member of the ground staff then shouted: “Does he want a cup of tea, Simon?”

Speaking after the game, Socrates said the match was much faster than he expected and much colder.

The former star, who reportedly lined out for UCD when he studied there, said: “It was far too cold. The second I got out I had this incredible headache, I’m just not used to it. The last time I saw snow was years and years ago. It was much faster than what I am used to. In Brazil games just aren’t that fast. It was good fun and a good game. Leeds looks a beautiful city and I am enjoying my stay here.”

The usual gate of 150 was swelled to 1,300 for the Brazilian’s appearance.

As the star sat on the bench wrapped in his many coats, hat and gloves, he stayed serenely above a series of arguments between the coaching staff of both sides which involved referee David Midgeley having to step in at one point.

As Mr Midgeley blew the final whistle, Socrates, who is known to be a heavy smoker, was breathing heavily and walked off slowly as he was mobbed by fans and photographers.

His brief appearance amounted to four touches - his early shot on the Tadcaster goal and three neat lay-offs in the midfield. His couple of attempts at getting on the end of long balls from the Tadcaster keeper with his head were foiled by the opposition midfield, many of whom were 30 years his junior.

Club owner Clifford told the news conference after the match he wanted to bring Socrates on to take a second-half penalty but he could not because the great man had mislaid his shin pads. Asked if he thought the event was a “farce” Clifford said there was a very serious side to Socrates’s visit. He said this was to promote his national chain of children’s soccer schools which are modelled on Brazilian football style.

Socrates said he was happy to visit Britain to support this venture.

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