BARELY A TON

ERIC CAN­TONA GAR­RIN­CHA MARADONA

Midweek Sport - - FRONT PAGE -

MORE than 100 nud­ist swim­mers of all ages are plan­ning a mass ‘Spring Skinny Dip’ at 7pm this Satur­day at Brighton’s Prince Re­gent Leisure Cen­tre. BRAZIL­IAN wing leg­end Gar­rin­cha was the ul­ti­mate bad boy foot­ball ge­nius whose life was so bizarre if it was a film you’d strug­gle to be­lieve it.

He was born with a de­formed spine, his right leg was bent and his left one was two inches shorter than the right.

Added to this he was a heavy drinker from the age of 14 but still man­aged be one of the great­est play­ers ever.

Oh, and he lost his vir­gin­ity to a DON­KEY.

His real name was Manuel Fran­cisco dos San­tos but he was given his nick­name thanks to his sway­ing walk, a symp­tom of his de­for­mi­ties; it trans­lates as ‘Lit­tle Bird’.

Less fa­mous now than his fel­low coun­try­man Pele, that’s mostly be­cause his finest mo­ments came be­fore satel­lite tele­vi­sion with its “a stain on the game”. Not his finest hour.

Fur­ther clues that he was bonkers came dur­ing an in­ter­view soon af­ter the in­ci­dent when he an­nounced: “When the seag­ulls fol­low the trawler, it’s be­cause they think sar­dines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you very much.” He then got up and walked out, leav­ing sea­soned hacks speech­less.

Cur­rently Di­rec­tor of Soc­cer for New York Cos­mos, Can­tona has had a spell of act­ing in a num­ber of films, and dab­bled in pol­i­tics with a bid for the French pres­i­dency.

To­tally hat­stand. global au­di­ences came into the game.

He is thought by many to be the best drib­bler of the game ever, los­ing just one game for his 50 caps and win­ning two World Cups, in 1958 and 1962.

But off the pitch his life was as messed up as his weird legs.

He ac­knowl­edged be­ing dad to 14 chil­dren, one of which he fa­thered dur­ing the 1958 World Cup cam­paign in Swe­den, but was said to have had 26 more.

He had con­sis­tent money trou­bles, not helped by his taste for the drink.

Once, in 1959, he hid £2,500 un­der a pil­low only to for­get about it. He later dis­cov­ered the cash again, but it had all rot­ted thanks to his al­co­holic in­duced AR­GEN­TINIAN cheat Diego Ar­mando Maradona may have had the Hand of God, but the Lord didn’t do him any favours in the brain depart­ment.

Be­cause de­spite be­ing one of the great­est play­ers in the his­tory of the game, and vir­tu­ally win­ning a World Cup sin­gle handed, his play­ing days are best re­mem­bered for drugs, the Mafia and shoot­ing jour­nal­ists.

The de­scent into drug use be­gan when he was signed to Barcelona for £5mil­lion in 1982. While there, he ar­gued with his man­ager, the board and fans and be­gan his 20-year love af­fair with co­caine.

Af­ter gain­ing a move to Napoli in Italy his prob­lems es­ca­lated. He was hooked on coke, lead­ing to run-ins bed­wet­ting. Booze also got him into trou­ble with the po­lice – he ran over a 10-yearold boy and his fa­ther while drunk, and later killed his mother-in-law in a crash.

It was the de­mon drink which ul­ti­mately killed him. Aged 49, he died of cir­rho­sis of the liver. His body lay in state in the Macarena sta­dium where he was mourned by 150,000 peo­ple.

De­scrib­ing the man’s tal­ent his 1958 World Cup win­ning cap­tain Bellini said: “The news of his death took us by sur­prise, although we knew his health was not good. He didn’t man­age to get over the drink prob­lem,” Bellini said. “Per­haps we won’t see an­other like him for 100, 150 years.”

Bril­liant, but bonkers. with the lo­cal Mafia, the Camorra, who he was said to owe mil­lions.

In 1991 he was banned for test­ing pos­i­tive for coke, and in 1994 he was spec­tac­u­larly thrown out of the World Cup in Amer­ica for drug use.

Later the same year the 51-yearold shot two jour­nal­ists with an air ri­fle, which earned him a 10 month sus­pended jail sen­tence.

Af­ter that he bal­looned to 20 stone, suf­fered heart at­tacks, was pals with Fidel Cas­tro, and be­came Ar­gentina’s foot­ball team coach.

Top that, Balotelli.

OOH ARGH!

Can­tona ex­plains his views to a Palace fan

LIT­TLE BIT MAD: Gar­rin­cha, with pal Pele ( was a don­key shag­ging

ge­nius

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