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Amarildo, like a man possessed

BRAPELÉ (Edson Arantes do Nascimento)
Brazilian Amarildo is kissed by Pele during the FIFA World Cup Chile 1962 (courtesy of Pelé: O Supercampeão, Makron Books)

Throughout the career of any professional footballer there are always defining moments, instants that players can look back on as the point when their fortunes took a turn for the better or worse. For Amarildo Tavares da Silveira, his particular landmark would prove to be the 1962 FIFA World Cup™ finals, where the forward went from being a Botafogo fan's favourite to a key figure in Brazil's successful world title defence.

In a curious twist to the tale, Amarildo travelled to Chile 1962 as a mere squad player, only to be called upon to fill in for many people's choice as the greatest footballer ever to play the game: Pele. So it was that Amarildo pulled on the mythical Canarinha jersey for the first time in Brazil's decisive group encounter against Spain, after O Rei had been injured in the 0-0 draw against the former Czechoslovakia four days' earlier.

The Iberians, boasting the likes of serial European Cup winners Paco Gento and Ferenc Puskas, opened the scoring ten minutes before the interval - threatening a 1-0 success that would have ensured the reigning champions fell at the first hurdle. Up stepped Amarildo, however, to fire a vital two-goal salvo in the last 18 minutes and send Brazil through to the knockout stages.

Still without Pele, but with players of the calibre of Didi, Vava, Garrincha and Nilton Santos, the Verdeamarelos went all the way to the Final, where they clinched a second successive world crown with a 3-1 success over the Czechs. Once more, Amarildo had a decisive role to play, grabbing his side's leveller just two minutes after Josep Masopust had given the Europeans an early lead.

His credentials well and truly established by his performances on Chilean soil, Amarildo earned a move to Italian football, where he would spend nearly a decade. He arrived back in his homeland in time to help Vasco da Gama win the league title in 1974, a fitting end to a glorious career that will always be inextricably linked to the events of June 1962.

Memorable moments
From his home in Rio de Janeiro, Amarildo was delighted to take a look back at his career at the request of, including, of course, his historic contribution to Brazil's Chile 1962 triumph. "Once I saw that Pele could barely walk during the Czechoslovakia game, that's when I started thinking what it would be like to replace him," says Amarildo. "Under [coach] Aymore Moreira there was never any doubt as to who his replacement would be. Every first-team player had a direct substitute and I was Pele's."

At that time, substitutions were still not permitted, so Amarildo had to wait until the Spain came before he could take to the field. "The selection committee were a big help, all they said to me was to ‘play like you do for Botafogo'. That wasn't too hard because, apart from Vava, the forward line was exactly the same: Didi, Garrincha, [Mario] Zagallo and I," says the player, who also remembers Pele's warm congratulations after the victory against La Furia Roja.

"I was having a shower after the Spain game, when an elated Pele came into the dressing room. He dived into the shower fully-clothed to give me a hug. It was like he'd been out on the field too, there were no egos involved."

In the wake of the FIFA World Cup success, the player dubbed ‘O Possesso' (The Man Possessed) by legendary Brazilian sports writer Nelson Rodrigues, because of his explosive talent and fiery character, joined Italian giants AC Milan. And one year on from stepping into Pele's boots in Chile, a Milan side also containing Bruno Mora, Gianni Rivera, Giovanni Trapattoni and Cesare Maldini came up against O Rei's Santos in the Intercontinental Cup final, losing 1-0 in a play-off after a two-legged final was unable to separate the two teams.

After claiming his only trophy in Rossoneri colours in the shape of the 1967 Italian Cup, Amarildo made the switch to Fiorentina. There he helped the Viola win only their second Serie A title in 1968/69, a triumph that wove him eternally into the fabric of the Florence club. Indeed, even after finishing his playing days with spells at Roma and Vasco, the Brazilian goalgetter adopted the Tuscan city as his second home on hanging up his boots.

Having called time on his playing career, Amarildo tried his hand at coaching, starting with the youth teams at Fiorentina then Botafogo. He then spent three years at the helm of Tunisian side Esperance, followed by a spell back in Florence as assistant coach to Sebastiao Lazaroni. Then began a long adventure in the Middle East, including a seven-year stint in the United Arab Emirates and several years in Qatar before in 2006 returning to Rio de Janeiro.

There he joined local third-tier outfit America, starting out as assistant to coach Carlos Roberto before being handed the reins himself in January 2008. "I did it pretty much as a favour, but it didn't work," says Amarildo of his week-long stay in the hot seat.

"I'd still like to coach a team again, but it'd have to be a team with a [long-term] project, a team with ambition. That's been my philosophy my whole life, I see no reason to change that now."

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