Francisco Marinho Chagas was only 22 when elected best left-back of the 1974 World Cup. However, in spite of this achievement, he would never again appear for Brazil in that tournament. His legacy as one of his nation’s best ever left-backs, as well as one of the most irreverent, has pretty much faded from the memory of many Brazilian fans, probably due to the manner Roberto Carlos has monopolized that position in the “scratch” during the last decade.
Born in Natal, Marinho rapidly achieved fame when Rio de Janeiro giants Botafogo purchased him from Nautico Recife in 1972. His rise to stardom was immediate. He scored in his debut in a Brazilian championship match against Santos, for whom Pele scored the equalizer, and also became an instant feature of the Rio beaches given his appearance, no doubt enhanced by his long blond hair which he persisted in dying even blonder. A firm favorite amongst many “garotas” during the seventies, Marinho’s playboy image is inevitably referred to in most profiles written about him.
His success in 74 was however partially marred by a much publicized rift with Leao. The brazilian goalie allegedly thumped Marinho and made him directly responsible for the goal by which Poland defeated Brazil in the Third/fourth place game. Marinho’s surging runs forward was a feature of his game that provoked as much admiration as criticism. The left flank of the defense which he so often left unprotected, especially when playing home matches at the mythical Maracana Stadium, merited the sarcastic term of “Marinho Avenue”.
In 1977 Marinho joined Fluminense, the unforgettable “machine” that had obtained both 1975 and 76 Carioca tournaments. However by the time Marinho arrived there, the only stars remaining were Rivelino, Edinho and veteran argentine striker “Gringo” Doval. In spite of not winning any trophies, he scored frequently especially from free kicks and penalties. After two seasons at “Flu”, Brazil’s poor economic situation and an alleged row with Edinho, accelerated Marinho’s departure. His next destination was New York.
Signed in 1979 by a Cosmos team that included Beckenbauer, compatriot Carlos Alberto, Chinaglia and Neeskens among others, Marinho performed decently in his only season there and will especially be remembered for his hat trick in a 3-2 win against Geroge Best’s Fort Lauderdale Strikers with 70000 attending. The following year he played for the latter team in what was to be his last season at the NASL. On returning to Brazil he joined Sao Paulo with whom he obtained the State championship of 1981, the only league medal of his entire career, and was also chosen for the third time as Brazil’s best left back. However, a dramatic decline in his performances forced him to leave Sao Paulo two years later and, after a series of unsuccessful spells in minor clubs, he finally retired in 1987.Brazil’s 1970 top scorer, Jairzinho, a friend and former team mate of his at Botafogo and the national team, has sustained that after Nilton Santos, there was no better left back than Marinho, and the great defender of the 1958 and 1962 World cup wins, himself once stated “Ah Marinho, como jogava bonito”-“Oh Marinho, how nice he used to play”. Every now and then Francisco Marinho appears in the brazilian media as a football pundit. He recently stunned many Brazilians for his strong criticism regarding his country’s performances in the last world cups, and most particularly that of one of their key defenders……Roberto Carlos.