Why was Zagallo’s nickname ‘Velho Lobo’?

A look into the Brazilian football icon
Martín O'Donnell
2024-04-23 16:00:23

Brazil has had a number of legends throughout history, but only a handful transcend generations. Even those who didn’t get to watch him play or coach know who Mário Jorge Lobo Zagallo was and how important he’s been for Brazilian football.

What many may wonder is why he was called ‘Velho Lobo’ (Old Wolf), and the reason has to do with both his third name and career. Lobo was already part of his identity, while the ‘Velho’ (Old) term reflected his experience and knowledge of the beautiful game.


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Zagallo spent practically his entire life related to the sport, from his first steps with América as a kid to coaching the Selecao until his late 70s. He was an Old Wolf who witnessed and played an instrumental role in his country’s rise to global prominence.

Having seen the painful loss to Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup final while working as a security in the Maracana, Zagallo went on to win four World Cups with Brazil as a player, coach, and assistant.

His first two titles came as a player in 1958 and 1962, before leading the Verdeamarela to a memorable triumph in Mexico 1970 as the coach behind a star-studded team with the likes of Pele, Tostao and Rivellino. 24 years later, Zagallo celebrated the fourth star next to Carlos Alberto Parreira in the 1994 World Cup held in the United States.

The ‘Velho Lobo’ dedicated most of his life to football, leaving an indelible mark in Brazilian history on the way.

Documentary about Zagallo is released

The new documentary “Zagallo: Vocês vão ter que me engolir” (Zagallo: You’ll have to put up with me”) is now available on Sambafoot’s Youtube channel. You can find the first two episodes here and expect new releases every Thursday.

The series tells the life story of Zagallo, from his early days with América – a popular club from Rio de Janeiro in the 1950s – until the 2006 World Cup debacle as an assistant coach.

The episodes include exclusive interview with important figures that were by his side, including former players like Kaká, Cafú, Jairzinho, Pepe and Jorginho, and also journalists that covered his stories for decades. The documentary intends to expose everything, from his glory days, controversies and even the failures of this unique figure of Brazilian football history.

“Zagallo: Vocês vão ter que me engolir” is an original production by Sambafoot Series and was developed since November 2023. The project is directed by Patrick Saint Martin and produced by Geovanne Peçanha.