The Brazil side from the 1970 World Cup in Mexico has gone down in history as one of the greatest international sides ever. The names of the players became memorised by many a school kid. But one member of that squad played an important part of the making of the side, without actually playing much of a part in the finals itself.
DadÃ¡ Maravilha (Wonder DadÃ¡) was born Dario JosÃ© dos Santos. He went by the name of DadÃ¡ or Dario and was a centre-forward ending his career as the fifth highest goalscorer in Brazilian football.
Born into poverty in Rio, he began his professional career with AtlÃ©tico Mineiro who signed him in 1968.
At the time Brazil was under a military dictatorship after the coup dâ€™etat in 1964. EmÃlio Garrastazu MÃ©dici was chosen as President in 1969, succeeding Artur da Costa e Silva, who had suffered a stroke.
Almost immediately the new leader began to meddle in the matters of the national football team.
Brazil was approaching the 1970 World Cup in Mexico desperate to regain the world crown they held in 1958, then defended four years later. In 1966, PelÃ© was literally kicked out of the tournament by brutal opponents and he and the team limped out in the group stage.
Legends such as Zito, Gilmar and Djalma Santos, Garrincha were in their mid-thirties in England and would not see another tournament. New stars were emerging in the country. Enthusiasm was rising.
The national side was managed by JoÃ£o Alves Jobin Saldanha. A former journalist, he lead Botafogo to the Rio State Championship in 1959. In 1969 he was appointed to take charge of the national team. It is alleged he was chosen by JoÃ£o Havelange in the hope journalists would be less critical of the national team if one of their own was in charge.
Saldanha made an impressive start. He won his first nine competitive matches. At the time Brazil played many friendlies, official and unofficial.
Dario had, had a really tough upbringing. He was barely five years old when he witnessed his mother set herself on fire. His father was unable to raise Dario and his two brothers so they were put into care. They were separated and grew up in different schools. As a kid he endured constant bullying and mocking, always getting into fights.
Eventually he discovered football in his street. Unfortunately for him the team he was always up against were the Antunes brothers, whose mascot was none other than a little boy by the name of Zico. Yes that Zico.
He joined the army at 18 but was unable to keep out of trouble. At one point he was kept in solitary confinement through indiscipline. He was about to be expelled from the army when a football championship provided him with the opportunity to turn his life around. Released from his prison his goals won the championship for his regiment.
After his national service he set about trying to forge a career in football. Always written off and often laughed at, he had to work to force his way in at AtlÃ©tico. It wasnâ€™t until he caught the eye of Dorival Knippel (known as Yustrich) he was selected.
Yustrich said of him
â€œHeâ€™s the best goalscorer in Brazil. He doesnâ€™t have TostÃ£oâ€™s class, nor Dirceu Lopesâ€™ touch of the ball. But heâ€™s the most efficient player, the one who earns moreâ€
Yustrich was in his third spell as manager at AtlÃ©tico and Dario was a keen admirer. Dario scored goals and the boos he received when he first took the field, were soon turned to cheers.
The strongest team in the Belo Horizonte State Championship was Cruzeiro, boasting the likes of Piazza, TostÃ£o, Evaldo and Pedro Paulo. For four years running (1966-1969) AtlÃ©tico finished second to Cruzeiro in the Championship.
Brazil was a tough place to gain recognition. Supporters could be cruel if your face didnâ€™t fit. Dario was black and suffered disgraceful racism. All until the scored goals which won titles.
When he was manager of Botafogo, his team lost out to AtlÃ©tico at the toss of a coin. Then in September 1969 AtlÃ©tico played Brazil in a friendly. Against a team containing PelÃ©, TostÃ£o, Jairzinho, Piazza, Felix and Carlos Alberto, DadÃ¡â€™s goal won it for AtlÃ©tico. The player rather over-celebrated in front of the national manager. These incidences appeared to cloud Saldanaâ€™s judgement where DadÃ¡ was concerned.
Around this time General MÃ©dici was interviewed and despite many subjects being censored, he was happy to discuss football and praised DadÃ¡. Next day the papers were full of headlines saying the President wanted DadÃ¡ in the team instead of TostÃ£o.
When Saldana was asked about this he replied;
â€œthe President chooses the ministry and I choose the national teamâ€
Soon after Saldana lost his job.
He was replaced by another former Botafogo coach, MÃ¡rio Zagallo. Zagallo was a legend in Brazilian football. He was in the 1958 and 1962 World Cup winning sides
Remarkably the decision was taken in mid-March 1970, just three months before the tournament was to kick-off.
Zagallo started with two friendly wins over Chile and then at the beginning of April he called up DadÃ¡ for another friendly at the MaracanÃ£ against Paraguay. The game ended goalless. But four days later they took on a Minas Gerais State XI in DadÃ¡â€™s home stadium in Belo Horizonte. DadÃ¡ opened his account for the national side with two goals in a 3-1 win.
Canny operator Zagallo had assured he received no pressure from the President by including DadÃ¡ in his squad for Mexico. The AtlÃ©tico striker featured in a couple of friendlies against local sides without finding the back of the net again.
DadÃ¡ wasnâ€™t called upon during the tournament, although he had a ringside seat to watch one of the greatest teams the world had ever seen. Brazil lifted their third World Cup, keeping the Jules Rimet Trophy as reward. The country was back to its old self again, top of the footballing world.
Buoyed by his newfound recognition, DadÃ¡ inspired AtlÃ©tico to lift the State Championship soon after. He scored the goal against Botafogo to give them the title.
â€œThe celebration was unusual. While my teammates were crying with joy on the field, I was crying with pain. I played with the instep of my right foot fractured.â€ recalled DadÃ¡ in an interview.
In 1973 he moved to Flamengo. When he came back to play against AtlÃ©tico the crowd chanted his name, such was his standing at the club.
During his 21-year career he played for 16 teams. No matter where he went he was idolised by the fans. His achievements within Brazilian football are the stuff of legend. For a poor boy who grew up in the suburbs of Rio and nearly became a criminal, this was an impressive story.
He would later credit his success with his ungainly gait;
â€œIâ€™m not ashamed to say that I donâ€™t know how to play ball. Iâ€™m clumsy, when I run I feel like Iâ€™m going to fall. This became an advantage, as my crooked sway hindered the opponent who didnâ€™t know what I would do with the ball.â€ he recalled.
â€œa coach once told me I had 800 defects and two virtues. A wonderful impulse and incredible speedâ€.
In 1975 he achieved a feat no other Brazilian player has managed. He scored 10 of the 14 goals for Sport-PE against Santo Amaro-PE for the Pernambuco Championship.
In 675 matches, both official and unofficial, he scored an incredible 436 goals.
Throughout his career he earned several nicknames mainly for his goalscoring exploits. â€˜Iron Chest Darioâ€™ and â€˜King Darioâ€™ were two of the most popular. As well as â€˜DadÃ¡ the Hummingbirdâ€™, earned on account of his ability to seemingly stop in mid-air. He put this ability down to a common practice of masturbating in the bathroom before each match, thereby making him â€˜lighter on the pitchâ€™.
DadÃ¡ was also famous for several catchphrases, including;
â€œThere is no such thing as an ugly goal, ugly is not scoring a goal.â€
One of his other catchphrases pointed to his heading ability;
â€œchin on the chest, chin on the shoulderâ€
He would coach his players this technique. One player who reaped the rewards of these lessons was Liverpool goalkeeper, Alisson Becker. After he famously scored against West Brom in the Premier League at the end of last season, the keeper credited DadÃ¡ with the â€˜assistâ€™.
â€œI didnâ€™t realise it was such a well-executed technical gesture. I played in a friendly match for Internacional U23 and I remember DadÃ¡ Maravilha talking about the technique of heading the ball. Chin on your chest, chin on your shoulder. I joke with Firmino and Fabinho when they made a mistake: chin on your chest, chin on your shoulder. And it was like that, incredible.â€
He retired at the age of 40 and moved into coaching. After winning a few state championships he then moved into commentary where he can still be heard today.
RSSSF has DadÃ¡ fifth on the list of all-time Brazilian league goalscorers.
DadÃ¡ may not have earned the worldwide fame the others in the 1970 World Cup squad did, but at least he had the novelty of being the only player selected for the Brazilian national team by the President.