R.I.P Felix: The Brazilian Keeper Who Made Carlos Alberto A Better Player

He might not be considered Brazil's greatest keeper, but the man who died late last week was respected by his teammates and deserved his place in the fabled team of 1970...
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He might not be considered Brazil's greatest keeper, but the man who died late last week was respected by his teammates and deserved his place in the fabled team of 1970...

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He wasn't the best Brazilian keeper of all times, despite the fact he played in the greatest Brazilian team there ever was. He was almost an accident in that magical squad of Pelé, Rivelino, Jairzinho, Tostão, Gerson and Carlos Alberto. Journalists and fans were sure in the 1970 World Cup that his two substitutes were better than him. But in the end it was Felix who shouted "we are world champions, daughter" as he wept on a phone in the sidelines of the Azteca Stadium. He passed away last Friday.

Until the 90s, Brazil had had only one keeper highly regarded internationally: Gilmar, World Cup champion in 1958 and 1962. Local heroes tended to fade away in bigger competitions. Felix was one of them. He made mistakes during the qualifiers and also during Mexico 1970 (you have seen only the goals Brazil scored, haven't you?). There was a lot of pressure on coach Mario Zagallo to put him on the bench. That never happened.

He faced the criticism, just like all the team did before the World Cup, and he was crowned champion. A man of stature

His colleagues disagreed with the criticism. He was somehow a leader. Carlos Alberto said Felix made him a better captain. "He was the oldest in that team full of young people. He got everything he had in football because he deserved it." Emerson Leão, pointed out as the one who should have had the number 1 in Mexico, said "Felix honored the traditions and deserved to be in the starting lineup during that competition. He was respected in the group".

Jairzinho prefered to remember Felix' clash with England's Francis Lee. "He was great in the 1-0 victory over England, that was pretty much a World Cup final", said Jairzinho to Brazilian media. "In the final against Italy he made two great saves in the beggining of the match. He was one of the best keepers I knew. He faced the criticism, just like all the team did before the World Cup, and he was crowned champion. A man of stature."

1970 was his first and only World Cup. Maybe that is why even he was a bit melancholic about his skills. "When I die I hope people will stop saying Brazil won in 1970 despite my presence", he said in an interview years ago. "It is very unfair. It is as if I am guilty for having won." He is the third player of that squad to die. Left-winger Everaldo passed away in 1974 and substitute defender Fontana, in 1980.

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