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Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis

October 25, 2016
OFFSIDE REMARKS
Remembering the great Carlos Alberto


Carlos Alberto: "Until today, people will remember my goal. Some people don't remember who scored second goal. Who scored third goal? But the fourth goal, everybody knows the fourth goal."
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Carlos Alberto: "Until today, people will remember my goal. Some people don't remember who scored second goal. Who scored third goal? But the fourth goal, everybody knows the fourth goal."

"Until today, people will remember my goal. Some people don't remember who scored second goal. Who scored third goal? But the fourth goal, everybody knows the fourth goal."

"This is good for me," Carlos Alberto added with a smile. "Sometimes we do good business because of the goal. In Brazil, some kids did not see me play. They see the goal and they know me."

Carlos Alberto knew his place in soccer history, captaining what many observers felt was the greatest national team in the history of the sport.

He passed Tuesday morning from a heart attack in Rio de Janeiro. He was 72.

Needless to say, Carlos Alberto's passing was a stunner for all of us. He was a class act -- on and off the field.

"It's extremely sad. He's a lot younger than me. He's a lot fitter than me," former Cosmos president Clive Toye said. "And to think that he's gone just like that, it's very sad. it's a great shame.

"As a player, he was a complete defensive player as I've ever seen. Although he played initially at right back many times for Brazil. I remember that goal he scored for Brazil in the World Cup in Mexico. Astonishing. Then he moved into central defender. Forget about it. You're not going to get past him when he's running the defense. He was a very complete player."

"Oh boy, unbelievable," said former Long Island University Brooklyn men's head soccer coach Arnie Ramirez, who got to know Carlos Alberto when he worked at the Pele Soccer Camps. "This was a shock to me."

Jim Trecker, who headed public relations for the Cosmos, then the North American Soccer League and the 1994 World Cup, got to know the Brazilian legend as well.

"Carlos Alberto was one of the greatest gentlemen I've ever been around," he said. "His elegance on the field, in professional situations, in social milieux was unsurpassed. I remember his unfailing kindness and cooperation about all the demands that were part of being a member of the Cosmos."

Seven years after scoring that memorable goal for Brazil, he joined the Cosmos midway through the 1977 and with Franz Beckenbauer, tightened up the middle. Beckenbauer moved to the midfield, where he could control the creative strings of the team while Carlos Alberto was a rock in the center of defense and a calming force.

"Almost as if he wasn't there," Toye said. "He wasn't yelling and screaming and gesticulating. He was there, he was there, he was there. And everybody else was where he was suggesting they went. And he was in control, very much in control of the backline. It was something extraordinary about his behavior, extraordinary in the way that he played. But there was no self aggrandizement. He just played for the sake of the team, just for the sake of his teammates. And then you're thinking, 'He played another game today, didn't he?' He did a great job."

Toye then laughed.

With Carlos Alberto in the lineup, the team went onto win four North American Soccer League championships (1977, 1978, 1980 and 1982).

It was at the 1982 Soccer Bowl that Carlos Alberto played in his last competitive game, which turned into a 1-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders on a Giorgio Chinaglia goal. Afterwards, Cosmos president Steve Ross went up to Alberto at this locker at Jack Murphy Stadium, and congratulated whom he called "the old man."

Alberto smiled.

"It was a special game, my last official one, but emotionally I felt about the same before," he told this writer. "I was worried and I smoked a lot of cigarettes today. I wanted to be a champion again. ... I am very happy now and that's not because I'm stopping play, but because we won."

While Carlos Alberto was talking to reporters, a makeshift samba band and -- composed of Cosmos players, onlookers and fanatics -- chanted the names of the players to the music of Jose Marti's "Guantanamera."

Yes, he smoked a lot of cigarettes in his time. The seventies and eighties were a different era.

Ramirez remembered when Carlos Alberto went to a soccer camp at the LaSalle Military Academy in Oakdale, N.Y. on Long Island back in the day. During a question and answer session, someone asked why an athlete would smoke.

"Well, he's just notused to being with so many children," Ramirez said he told the crowd. "He uses the cigarette to calm his nerves. But he doesn't smoke."

Unfortunately, that smoking apparently caught up to Carlos Alberto, who seemingly was indestructible on defense.

While working on several freelance pieces about him, I caught up to Carlos Alberto while he was coaching the Azerbaijan national team in a friendly match in Trinidad & Tobago.

Carlos Alberto did show he was human at a soccer game. Midway through the second half of a 2-0 loss in February 2005, Carlos Alberto kicked the side of the team dugout after a player missed an easy scoring opportunity.

Carlos Alberto’s reaction certainly was out of character, not one of the patient captain of 1970 World Cup champion Brazil or the calm, collected central defender of Cosmos championship teams.

“Every game,” he later said with a laugh of his reaction. “Not just today.”

Then he became serious.

“If we are losing a game, and the players show determination,” he said that he could live with that. “But the way they played, I don’t accept this.”

(Years later, I got to see Carlos Alberto again, first at the 2006 announcement that Red Bull would purchase the MetroStars in 2006, then at the 2010, where he had problems getting out of a car because his knees were shot. A year later I spoke to him at a Cosmos gathering and he was proud of his knee replacement.)

On Tuesday, there are millions around the world who did not accept the news that another soccer legend had been taken from us -- the one and only Carlos Alberto.
 
 
 
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