Brazil pays last respects to World Cup great Zagallo
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) — Fans, players and coaches paid their last respects in Brazil to Mario Zagallo, the first person to win the Fifa World Cup as both player and manager.
Zagallo was seen by many as the embodiment of the Brazilian national team, whose flair and skills gained a global following, with a large banner reading “Zagallo eternal” at the Brazilian football confederation headquarters. A public wake and then private funeral, attended by friends and family, took place Sunday at the confederation’s museum, with burial later at Sao João Batista cemetery after a short parade through the streets of Rio de Janeiro.
“I owe my career in the national team to him,” said former player Zinho who tearfully kissed Zagallo’s forehead in an open casket. “I recently wanted to visit him. He was not in good shape but still called me to chat later. I lost a father.”
Zagallo won two World Cups as a player (1958 and 1962), one as a coach (with the still-revered team of 1970), and another as an assistant coach (1994) for Brazil.
He died late on Friday at age 92 of multiple-organ failure. Local media reported he was hospitalised after Christmas.
A life-size statue of the football legend was close to his casket during the wake. Zagallo saw the unveiling of the statue in a wheelchair in October 2022. Replicas of all five World Cup trophies Brazil has won were placed in front of Zagallo’s casket. His sons received miniature versions of them.
“I can only thank people all over the world for all the love they are giving to my father,” Paulo Zagallo said. “He was lucid until the end. It was God’s will to allow him to rest so he didn’t suffer so much.”
Fans like Jair Almeida Alves, 56, applauded as they passed by Zagallo’s casket. Wearing a Botafogo shirt, one of Zagallo’s clubs as player and coach, Alves said he saw him as a national hero.
“He is the embodiment of what it is to be proud about being Brazilian. Only later in his life people understood Zagallo, how important he was for our football, for our identity,” Alves said. “This is a celebration of his life. He lived a great life, made us happy, and is now in the history books.”
Zagallo was also the last living member of Brazil’s starting team in its first championship victory in the tournament in 1958.
He played a role in nearly every major chapter in Brazilian football history, from its first World Cup title in 1958 to the tournament it hosted in 2014. Former Brazil Coach Tite visited him to hear his advice before taking the team to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Zagallo coached Brazil in the 1970, 1974 and 1998 World Cups, winning the first of those. He was the team’s assistant coach in the 1994 title-winning campaign.
Brazil football great Ronaldo, the 1994 and 2002 World Cup winner, was among many to send wreaths.
“Zagallo, your era is eternal,” his message said. “Thanks for everything you taught me. Rest in peace. I love you.”
Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva declared three days of national mourning on Saturday.