Brazil 1970: Who was Tostao?

Is Eduardo Gonçalves de Andrade different from Tostão? Can you separate the person from the alter ego? The football player from the doctor? The kid from the septuagenarian? Did Tostão’s success and stardom become too much of a burden for Eduardo to carry in later life?

Tostão had been one of those players who longed for some rest amid all the celebrations of Brazil’s World Cup win in 1970. Pelé’s left-footed attacking partner in the Seleção was priceless to the team. He often played with his back to goal, flicking passes to Pelé and Jairzinho. Everything sped up around him whenever he got possession, his little feet whirring, pinging around his short-range first-time passes. Tostão manipulated the space around him. His intelligence was a menace to opposing defenders. He calculated angles at warp speed and shifted players around him like chess pieces. He pivoted and pirouetted; often, he drifted out to the left.

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Tostão wasn’t fixated on scoring during the 1970 World Cup. Instead, he sought to make himself available at all times, lurking and directing. He embodied one of the great virtues of Mario Zagallo’s team − he knew how to play without the ball.

He had a singular kind of understanding with Pelé but knew he could never match the No. 10: “When Cruzeiro beat Santos in 66 in the [Taça Brasil] the press was publishing that I was ‘o Novo Rei’ (the New King),” says Tostao. “That was something I thought to be absurd. The press was asking, ‘How do Pelé and you compare?’ I said, ‘The best that I can do is to think like him, but I just won’t be able to execute it, haha.’ I could have his logic and reasoning, but I would never have the technique and physical strength to execute it. It was about thinking. Quick thinking in fact is a good quality whatever you do. Being concise, being a minimalist, quickly making decisions without delay.”

Tostão was the team’s most sophisticated player. He was brilliant in his own small, decisive patch, drawing out defenders and imagining delicate assists. Yet, Tostão always carried the stigma that he was somewhat underdeveloped for an elite athlete. Even his nickname alluded to his small frame. Eduardo was the little coin, not worth much. Instead he went on to become the brightest player to have ever featured alongside Pelé, anticipating his every move. Armando Nogueira wrote of telepathy between the pair. Tostão called it “analogue communication”.

For all of Tostão’s understanding with Pelé, Eduardo and Edson couldn’t have been more different. Edson and Pelé became mythical; the alter ego usurped the person. Tostão’s eye injury − which left his fitness for the 1970 World Cup in doubt for the longest of times – ultimately curtailed his career. In 1973, he retired at the age of 26. Tostão was never at home in the hysteria of football milieus.

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Intellectual and liberal, he pursued medicine at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, but that didn’t bring solace. All his fellow students and professors wanted to talk about was football. His exile from the game would last until 1994 when Tostão returned to the Brazilian mainstream as a TV pundit and columnist. Today, his bi-weekly columns in Folha de São Paulo, a Brazilian national newspaper, are among the most read and insightful in Brazil.

Eduardo, sitting in his tasteful living room, dressed in a T-shirt from under which a small belly shows, explained.

‘It was as if I lived two lives, one of a former athlete − recognised as I am to this day and always trying to be considerate of people; and the other, my personal life, totally separate from my public persona,” he remembers.

“Football was a diversion. I was a doctor, I worked a lot as a doctor, as a teacher. I stayed away from football. I’ve always had this concern [to separate Eduardo from Tostão]. I never really liked mixing these things, but it was inevitable. There was no way to separate them.”

In his view, Pelé never suffered from the anguish, the conflict between the man and the myth. There was no loss of identity, the way Tostão and others experienced it. Is Jair separate from Jairzinho? Does Hércules exist without Brito? They’ve remained captives of their own success. Ultimately, Eduardo couldn’t banish football from his life. Instead he’s learned to reconcile himself with his alter ego.

‘Many have problems, emotional difficulties forming a new life separate from the one they had as athletes.” Eduardo says. “They have a hard time carrying that around. Our Seleção went down in history. Everyone remembered it. Parents and grandparents tell their children and grandchildren. The past is important, it is a living thing used to relate to the modern world. This relationship between the past and the present is important to understand what happens in football today. Yes, the memory is important, but not as something that needs to be relived.’

This is an extract from Brazil 1970 – How the Greatest Team of All Time Won the World Cup (Pitch Publishing) by Sam Kunti, which is available to buy now.

Brazil 1970: Who was Tostao?
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