From Maceió to glory: How Mario Zagallo masterminded Brazil football’s golden era

Following the path of a Brazilian football hero from his early days to world fame
Desmond Efe-Khaese
2024-04-13 16:30:56

Mario Jorge Lobo Zagallo is a figure of the essence, the spirit, of Brazilian football like no other. Born on a warm day, August 9, 1931, in the coastal city of Maceió, Alagoas, Brazil, his journey in football would take him from the gritty playing fields, playing as a versatile forward and midfielder, to the strategic arenas of coaching. There, he carved his name into history.

Playing Career:

Zagallo’s time on the field was marked by success, resilience. He played for big names – America Football Club, Flamengo, Botafogo. At Flamengo and Botafogo, he wasn’t just another player. He won state championships. Earned a reputation for being tactically smart, on the field. His playing style? It was all resilience, tactical versatility, an innate understanding of the game. These weren’t just skills. They were a glimpse into his future in coaching.


++ Zagallo is honored at FIFA The Best
++ Football world says goodbye to Zagallo in Brazil
++ Ancelotti pays tribute to Zagallo and Beckenbauer before the Madrid derby

International Glory:

Then came the international stage. Here, Zagallo’s story takes on a legendary hue. He was pivotal in Brazil’s 1958 and 1962 World Cup victories. Alongside legends like Pelé, Garrincha, and Didi, he shone. His skill, his tactical acumen, it was all on display. Zagallo’s ability to adapt, to play different positions, made him invaluable. He was a cornerstone of Brazil’s dominance in that era.

Transition to Coaching:

Moving from player to coach seemed almost… inevitable for Zagallo. It was seamless. Fueled by a deep understanding of the game and a natural leadership quality. He became the first to win the FIFA World Cup both as a player and as a coach. 1970. Under his guidance, Brazil’s team was a thing of beauty. Celebrated for its attacking flair, its cohesion. Zagallo’s tactics, his innovations, they left a mark on the sport. A lasting impact.

Later Years and Legacy:

But Zagallo’s story doesn’t end there. He continued to shape Brazilian football. Assistant manager, technical coordinator for the national team. His influence contributed to Brazil’s 1994 World Cup win and their runner-up finish in 1998. His career? It’s a tapestry of accolades, each reflecting his monumental contributions to football.

Zagallo’s legacy? It’s more than trophies, more than titles. It’s about the style, the joy, the passion his teams brought to the pitch. His mantra, “You have to have people with a lot of creativity and to put the ball on the floor. No long balls,” it speaks volumes. It’s the essence of Brazilian football.

A new documentary

Sambafoot Series has launched a new documentary about Zagallo‘s life – from playing to coaching. ‘Zagallo: Vocês vão ter que me engolir!‘ is now available and you can check Episode 1 of the original series here.

Stay tuned for the next episodes as we keep telling the life story of one the greatest football figures of all time.