Did Brazilian footballer Socrates once play non-league football in Britain?

Did Brazilian footballer Socrates once play non-league football in Britain?  To cut a long story short, yes, he did. In his heyday, Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira, or Sócrates for short, was considered one of the greatest attacking midfielders of all time. Standing 6’4″ tall, he was physically strong, lithe and athletic, technically gifted and able to pick a pass with either foot. Sócrates was also a prolific goalscorer, chalking up 22 goals in 60 appearances for Brazil, whom captained in the 1982 FIFA World Cup, and 172 goals in 297 appearance for Corinthians, of São Paulo, with whom he spent most of his club career.

So, I hear you ask, how did the one-time revered captain of the greatest team, Brazilian or otherwise, to never have won a World Cup end up plying his trade in the lower reaches of the English football pyramid, thousands of miles from his homeland? Well, Sócrates offically retired from ‘futebol-arte’ – the Portuguese term used to distinguish characteristic Brazilian football – in 1989 aged 35 but, bizarrely, was coaxed back again 15 years later.

In October, 2004, at the behest of Simon Clifford, owner and manager of Garford Town who, at that time, played in Division One of the semi-professional Northern Counties East Football League, Sócrates agreed to become unpaid player-coach for a period of one-month. Of course, Clifford was also founder of the Brazilian Soccer Schools franchise, through which he had become friendly with the former midfield maestro.

In any event, the Brazilian made just one, brief appearance, coming on an as substitute after 78 minutes of a home game against Tadcaster Albion at Wheatley Park on November 4, 2004, which ended in a 2-2 draw. Cutting a fuller figure than he had in his prime, Sócrates reportedly prepared for his debut in West Yorkshire by ‘drinking two bottles of Budweiser and smoking three cigarettes’. Old habits die hard, it seems.