Andrew Downie - Socratic Dialogue

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Socratic Dialogue

Sócrates happily stood up and said what he thought, most often speaking out for progressive causes that were dear to my own heart.
— Andrew Downie on Sócrates

Andrew Downie has written his Republic. With the publication of his book Doctor Socrates - Footballer, Philosopher, Legend (Simon & Schuster) Andrew has graduated from being the student Plato at the feet of Socrates to a master philosopher in his own write. The feet of Socrates in this instance being those of the genius Brazilian midfielder rather than those of the ancient Greek philosopher. 

His book is an elegant, passionate & beautifully written tome on one of the games' most iconic and revolutionary figures. Here he talks to Football And The City about capturing the spirit, in material form, of a footballing god. 

FATC:  Do you remember how you fell in love with Sócrates?
AD:  There wasn't one particular moment. I knew about him as a player and always liked his style, he was very cinematic in his movements and great to watch. But I really got to know more about him when I moved to Brazil and realised he was much more than your average footballer. I started to understand how important he was off the pitch and that made him a more attractive person to me, someone who obviously had more to him than the usual one-dimensional players we came across on tv and in interviews.

FATC: For the FATC readers, could you explain what made him such a magnetic & powerful subject? Why did you feel compelled to write about him?  
AD: It was exactly that off the field activism, the way he got involved in so many campaigns and principally the way he spoke out about issues. While most footballers made a point of keeping their heads down and avoiding controversy, Socrates happily stood up and said what he thought, most often speaking out for progressive causes that were dear to my own heart. I always felt - and still feel - that more players should be speaking out and I really admired him for doing that so fearlessly. 

FATC: Sócrates was a modern version of a Renaissance Man. A Doctor, iconic footballer, political activist, writer & guitarist. When researching the book, which of these (areas) threw up the most surprises the further you jumped down the rabbit hole? 
AD: Actually it was none of the above. The bit that surprised me most was his personal life, which was chequered and largely unreported. He was married four times, and had at least one other long-term partner. He had six kids from three of those partners. None of that had really been written about. The only stuff we really knew about his personal life was the superficial reports that he liked to drink and smoke. Delving into his personal life, how he approached love and friendships and life away from football and activism was the main eye-opener.

FATC: His brother Raí went onto lift the World Cup with Brazil in 1994. In the course of your travels into the world of Sócrates did you unearth anything about his reaction to this? Was he proud, was it bittersweet for him, was he flat-out annoyed? Did him not winning in 1982, or 1986 for that matter, leave a hole in his life? 
AD: I deliberately didn't get into his relationship with Rai because they were not really close for most of their lives, simply because Socrates was so much older. They were rarely in the same city at the same time. They were from different generations almost. Socrates always claimed that not winning the World Cup was a blessing because 'you learn more when you lose.' That might be true but I also think it was a way of rationalising the loss. Nevertheless, he maintained that same line all the way through his life and the truth is that prizes and awards and all that kind of thing were not important to him. They were fleeting. He lived to enjoy himself in the moment and being with people he loved was more important than medals or trophies.

FATC: A little known fact is that he, somewhat bizarrely, played 12 minutes for Garforth Town when he was 50. How did this come about?
AD: Garforth had a charismatic go-getter in charge and they went after big names. Signing Socrates was great for the publicity value. This got a lot of attention in the UK because of who he was, a 50-year old legend coming to play for a small side in northern England. But it really wasn't important to him. What he enjoyed was meeting new people and doing new things and in that sense it was interesting to him. But the football, he only played a few minutes as you said, was irrelevant. 

FATC: Gun To The Head - Hungary 1954, Holland 1974 or Brazil 1982?
AD: It's a tough one. Brazil 1982 were not just glamorous and brilliant, they were the standout side at what was one of the last truly great World Cups. Holland in 1974, too, because of Cruyff and their revolutionary style of play. But if you ask me as a rational man, as a journalist, examining the facts, I'd have to say Hungary 1954 were the more deserving of the three. They hadn't lost a game in years leading up to the tournament and their star player Puskas played the final even though he wasn't fully fit. They even had a goal disallowed in the final. The marvellous Magyars deserved to be World Cup winners in my opinion also because of all they gave to the game in the middle part of the 20th century.

Andrew's book - Doctor Socrates - Footballer, Philosopher, Legend is out now - published by Simon & Schuster. 

You can follow Andrew on Twitter by clicking the button! 

J.S. Leatherbarrow