Socrates the elder is famous for 15 minutes

A 50-year-old Brazilian icon has just experienced a culture shock. Phil Andrews joins the devotees
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The Independent Football

The last time the words "football" and "Brazil" were used in the same sentence in this part of Yorkshire, they were being sung rather optimistically by Barnsley fans during their shortlived spell in the Premiership.

The last time the words "football" and "Brazil" were used in the same sentence in this part of Yorkshire, they were being sung rather optimistically by Barnsley fans during their shortlived spell in the Premiership.

But yesterday the real thing arrived in West Yorkshire when Socrates, the captain of Brazil in the Eighties, pulled on the kit of Garforth Town of the Northern Counties League East as they drew 2-2 against Tadcaster Albion.

It was not a totally unfamiliar experience, as Garforth play in the yellow shirts and blue shorts of Brazil, but there the similarity with anything Socrates had known before ended. Although the crowd for the derby was five or six times bigger than what is normal for a game at their neat little ground on the edge of a new housing estate, it still struggled to reach four figures.

The only reminders of Rio's Sugarloaf were the cooling towers of a power station behind one of the goals.

The captain of the 1982 and '86 Brazilian World Cup teams arrived in England to find it covered in snow and, although it had melted from Wheatley Road - with its single stand open to the elements - before kick-off yesterday, this was not quite what Socrates in his prime can have dreamed of in his philosophy.

"I've never been to the north of England but I'm always up for new experiences,'' said the man who scored four times for Brazil in his two World Cup campaigns. "Because of my age I won't be the fastest man on the pitch, but I can still remember a few tricks.''

He had shown some of them to youngsters at a Sheffield shopping mall yesterday and Garforth's manager, Simon Clifford, hopes they will rub off not only on team-mates but on the new generation of British youngsters through the chain of Brazilian-style soccer schools he runs.

It is fair to say that, at the moment, Garforth play the ball in the air more often than any of Socrates' previous teams, but it looked as though his new club would manage without the services of the 50-year-old when they went in at half-time two goals in front.

But Tadcaster fought back and the chants of "We want Socrates'' were heard even before they drew level midway through the second half.

"I work in television now so I'm not as fit as I was, but I think I will be all right playing for 20 minutes or half an hour,'' he had said beforehand. In the end, Socrates got just 15 minutes on a pitch that was rapidly freezing over. He came on wearing gloves, knee-length shorts and an extra-large shirt specially made for his 6ft 6in frame.

Had he come off the bench two minutes earlier, the man who was once one of the world's best penalty takers might have won the game for his new club, but Garforth had just missed their only spot kick.

Socrates' first touch was a flamboyant shot on goal which the Tadcaster keeper did well to cling on to, but he spent the rest of his first match patrolling a small patch of midfield. He wore the air of a man who intends to let the ball do most of the work from now on.

At the final whistle, he looked relieved to get out of the freezing night air and back to the cup of Bovril he had been nursing in the dugout. He may be bringing a touch of samba to this meeting of cultures, but Garforth supporters will be hoping he soon adds to it a little Yorkshire grit.

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