Written by Halsey Friedel

Zico was a dominant force of a very strong Flamengo and Brazilian side throughout the late 70s and 80s. His legacy as a player was defined through his amazing free-kick abilities and ball control techniques, only to be downgraded by his inability to win a world cup. He now tries to add to his legacy through analyzing and teaching his techniques through the medium of coaching in various locations throughout the world.



Zico, born Arthur Antunes Combria in Rio de Janerio in 1953 [1] , had always shown great abilities as a footballer, even from a very young age. When his brothers, who themselves had relatively successful careers on teams such as America, were asked who in the family was the best, they would always say “Arthur,” despite their already established professional careers and his young age. [2] Furthermore, Zico was always destined to play for Flamengo, as his father was a huge fan and had dictated his upbringing with many aspects of the team. Zico even said, “When we were born, each of us was given a Brazil kit and a Flamengo kit.” [2] So when the opportunity arose for a trial in 1967, he had to take it.


Zico made his professional debut in 1971 and provided an instant stimulus to the team where he remained until 1983. [2] However, Flamengo’s, and Zico’s, true dominance was demonstrated during the years of 1978 to 1983, where Zico lead the team to 3 league titles, 3 state championships and the club’s first Copa Libertadores championship. [3] Zico was both the captain and star of this team, with his fantastic control and scoring. These fantastic feats, such as scoring 21 of his teams 46 goals in 1981 [3]  or being named player of year in 1983 [1] , earned him the nickname of “White Pele.” Pele himself has commented on Zico’s great abilities stating, “Throughout the years, the one player that came closest to me was Zico.” [1] In 1983, Zico moved to Udinese, where he also played extremely well and helped Udinese reach new heights, but he ultimately returned to Flamengo in 1985, suggesting he was an Udinese player through and through.  Some of Zico’s career highlights are below.



Despite his overwhelming club success, he was not able to achieve as much on the international stage. While he did play well for the international team, participating in the 1978, 1982 and 1986 world cups, the teams failed to win the world cup, which a tragedy given Brazil’s talent and recent success (winning the world cup in 1958, 1962 and 1970). [4] As such, Zico is often times thought of as one of the best players to never win a world cup. [1]

Zico retired in 1994, after playing for some time in Japan, but he has not left the game altogether, as he has and continues to coach many teams throughout the world. Zico has coached on both an international, Japan and Iraq, and club, Fenerbahçe and CSKA Moscow, level with relative successes in both. His most successful coaching accomplishments are with Japan, where he led them to a 2004 Asian Cup championship and 2006 world cup qualification [5] , and Fenerbahçe, where he won the league title and Turkish Supercup in 2007 and made it to the quaterfinals of the Champions League in 2008. [6] He now currently coaches Al-Gharafa in Qatar, but is apparently looking to move to an international team, such as Australia, for the world Cup next year. [5]



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[1]  “About Zico,” Zico Soccer Academy, 2013.

[2] “Zico: Seleção genius, Mengão king,” FIFA, 2010.

[3] “When Flamengo and Zico ruled the world,” World Soccer, 2013.

[4] “Brazil national football team,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Web. Oct 21, 2013.

[5] “Brazilian great Zico interested in coaching Socceroos,” The Advertiser Sport, Oct 13, 2013.

[6] “Zico,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Web. Oct 21, 2013.

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