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Carlos Alberto: The night I went toe-to-toe with Brazilian icon over Northern Ireland

By Steven Beacom

Published 26/10/2016

Carlos Alberto. The name conjures up television images of the 1970 World Cup final between Brazil and Italy and his glorious goal.

It followed the move of moves which started in Brazil's half and ended with Pele passing the ball into space for the onrushing Alberto to rifle a low right-footed shot into the net, earning his side a 4-1 victory in Mexico.

Minutes later, captain Carlos, gleaming with pride and smiling from ear to ear, was holding aloft the Jules Rimet trophy.

I grew up spellbound by those iconic moments.

More: Carlos Alberto inspired Brazil's greatest ever team to glory

You can imagine then how thrilled I was to meet and interview Carlos Alberto in 2004 before his Azerbaijan side were due to play Northern Ireland in Baku in a World Cup qualifier.

Full of life and full of fun, there was no sign of his famous fiery temper as he happily chatted away in English about THAT goal, playing in THAT Brazilian team and his admiration of our own superstar George Best. He was a joy.

Post-match was different. After a dreary 0-0 draw on a poor pitch against Northern Ireland, he walked into the press room and, fuming that Azerbaijan had not won, unleashed an astonishing attack on Lawrie Sanchez's side.

"I'm tired of playing s*** football teams like Northern Ireland," he blasted.

"They do not play football the way it should be played. It is like volleyball or basketball."

Carlos Alberto died on Tuesday age of 72
Carlos Alberto died on Tuesday age of 72
File photo dated 20-06-1970 of Brazilian footballer Carlos Alberto. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday October 26, 2016. Brazilian football is in mourning following the sudden death of Carlos Alberto, the captain of the 1970 World Cup-winning side, at the aged 72 from a heart attack. See PA story SOCCER Carlos Alberto. Photo credit should read PA/PA Wire.
(FILES) This file photo taken on June 21, 1970 shows Brazilian forward Pele (top) celebrating with his teammates (from L) Tostao, Carlos Alberto and Jairzinho during the World Cup final between Brazil and Italy, in Mexico City. Carlos Alberto, captain of the great Brazil team that won the 1970 World Cup, died on Tuesday of a heart attack in Rio at the age of 72, Brazil's Sportv, for whom he worked, announced. / AFP PHOTO / STFSTF/AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) This file photo taken on May 29, 1970 shows Brazilian national soccer team defender Carlos Alberto in Mexico City, two days before the opening of the World Cup. Carlos Alberto, captain of the great Brazil team that won the 1970 World Cup, died on Tuesday of a heart attack in Rio at the age of 72, Brazil's Sportv, for whom he worked, announced. / AFP PHOTO / STAFFSTAFF/AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) This file photo taken on June 21, 1970 shows Brazilian national soccer team captain and defender Carlos Alberto smiling as he holds aloft the Jules Rimet Cup after Brazil defeated Italy 4-1 in the World Cup final in Mexico City. Carlos Alberto, captain of the great Brazil team that won the 1970 World Cup, died on Tuesday of a heart attack in Rio at the age of 72, Brazil's Sportv, for whom he worked, announced. / AFP PHOTO / STAFFSTAFF/AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) This file photo taken on April 22, 2014 shows Carlos Alberto, former captain of the Brazilian 1970's football team, holds the World Cup which has just arrived in the country, at Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on April 22, 2014. Carlos Alberto, captain of the great Brazil team that won the 1970 World Cup, dies on October 25, 2016 of a heart attack in Rio at the age of 72, Brazil's Sportv, for whom he worked, announced. / AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOPHE SIMONCHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) This file photo taken on December 05, 2013 shows Brazilian football legend Carlos Alberto Torres giving a press conference on the eve of the Brazil 2014 FIFA Football World Cup final draw, in Costa do Sauipe, state of Bahia, on December 5, 2013. Carlos Alberto, captain of the great Brazil team that won the 1970 World Cup, dies on Tuesday of a heart attack in Rio at the age of 72, Brazil's Sportv, for whom he worked, announced. / AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDANELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images
FILE - OCTOBER 25, 2016: Brazil legend Carlos Alberto, has died on October 25, 2016 at the age of 72. The Brazilian football team, 18th May 1970. (Back row left to right) Carlos Alberto, Baldocchi, Ado, Fontana, Piazza and Marco Antonio; (front row) Jairzinho, Gerson, Pele, Rivelino and Edu. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
FILE - In this June 21, 1970 file photo, Brazil's team captain Carlos Alberto, center, holds up the golden Jules Rimet Trophy, after his team defeated Italy in the FIFA World Cup soccer final, at Azteca Stadium, in Mexico City. The Brazilian Football Confederation confirmed the death of 72-year-old Carlos Alberto on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Gianni Foggia, File)

Gone was good cop Carlos. The bad cop had arrived and was laying down the law. Unfairly in my book, because while Northern Ireland weren't great, viewing Azerbaijan was definitely not just like watching Brazil!

Continuing his rant, he slammed Northern Ireland for being a dirty team before again savaging the players for their lack of quality.

By this stage, I had had enough. This may have been one of the finest footballers to grace the beautiful game but he was spouting rubbish and I told him as much, saying that I felt Azerbaijan were just as bad as Northern Ireland for most of the match and worse as it reached its conclusion.

Carlos stared me down as if engaging in some sort of high noon shoot-out, prior to firing a few broadsides in my direction which I replied to as best I could.

The press conference was a million times more entertaining than the World Cup qualifier and ended with the Azerbaijan press giving the Brazilian a standing ovation when he left the room after demanding how I could be bothered watching my national team when they played the way they did.

He revelled in it.

Had the Azerbaijan players showed the same fight, passion and desire as their manager, they would have hammered Northern Ireland all those years ago.

Azerbaijan's next match is against Northern Ireland next month in Belfast. I hope this legendary figure is remembered in some way at Windsor Park following his death yesterday aged 72.

What a player on the pitch. What an unforgettable character off it. Rest in peace Carlos Alberto.

Belfast Telegraph

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