x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

World Cup Cult Heroes: Josimar

In the run-up to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, The National’s Gary Meenaghan looks back at the figures of World Cups past who, while not necessarily the greatest the game has ever seen, were among football’s most interesting characters.

Illustration by Mathew Kurian / The National
Illustration by Mathew Kurian / The National

In the run-up to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, The National’s Gary Meenaghan looks back at the figures of World Cups past who, while not necessarily the greatest the game has ever seen, were among football’s most interesting characters.

JOSIMAR

The uncapped Brazilian right-back was not supposed to be at the World Cup in 1986, let alone play and score two of the tournament’s finest goals. Yet, he did just that and was later named in Fifa’s All-Star team.

Botafogo B-Lister

The unknown right-back was a late call-up to Brazil’s 1986 squad after Leandro refused to travel. Josimar, plying his trade with mid-table side Botafogo, understood he was travelling solely to make up numbers and act as an understudy to Edson. Even when the Corinthians defender twisted his knee during Brazil’s second match, the coach opted to play a midfielder at right-back rather than Josimar.

Unlikely Hero

With Brazil having already qualified for the second round, Josimar was handed his debut against Northern Ireland. In the 42nd minute, he released a missile into the top corner from 25 yards. In Brazil’s next match he scored again, this time dribbling past three defenders before hitting a fierce drive across the goalkeeper. His jubilant celebrations – arms aloft, star-jump, sky-punch – epitomised his joy.

That is What He Said

After securing a move to Sevilla off the back of his World Cup performance, he failed to nail down a place and returned to Brazil the following year. He never scored another goal and retired, depressed, in 1997. “The blondes came and the training went,” he later told FourFourTwo. “I was supposed to be at the peak of my career, but I wasted all the money, lost all credibility and, worst of all, I lost contact with my kids.”

Cult Status

For two weeks, in June 1986, Josimar’s name rang out around schoolyards, but his star soon fell. Yet in Norway, of all places, he is remembered; his name is on a monthly football magazine. “Increasingly, we see a grumpy face when Neymar scores a goal,” said Marius Lien, founder of the magazine. “Instead, we like to close our eyes and think about the celebration of Josimar in 1986.”

Follow us on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE