The FIFA World Football Museum has been given exclusive access to an unpublished memoir written by journalist Kátia Bagnarelli, the widow of former Seleção captain Sócrates. The book Jogo, Ciência, Drogas e Aculturação (“Game, Science, Drugs and Acculturation”), includes first-person accounts from the mercurial midfielder, including the story behind one of Sócrates’ most famous headbands – now on show in the museum’s exhibition, “Brazil 2014 Revisited”.

Sócrates and his teammates celebrate scoring against Argentina at the 1982 World Cup | ©Imago/Sven Simon
A football icon in his time, Sócrates was known for his elegant style of play, his long curly locks and his shaggy beard. Blind back-heeled passes became something of a trademark – as did his penchant for headbands with social messages. After captaining Brazil at the 1982 World Cup, he donned the famous yellow shirt again at the 1986 tournament in Mexico.

As the Brazilian players lined up for the national anthems ahead of their opening match against Spain, Sócrates attracted much of the attention with a large headband bearing the words México sigue en pieMexico still stands. It was a simple and yet powerful message to the World Cup host country, which had suffered after an earthquake struck its capital in 1985. Throughout the tournament, Sócrates would deliver other messages on his headbands, such as “Need justice”, “No terror” and “No violence”.

Sócrates' headband on display in Brazil 2014 Revisited | ©FIFA Museum

Sócrates wearing the 'Mexico sigue en pie' headband, 1986 | ©Imago Sportfotodienst
Perhaps a little surprisingly, it turns out that the headband Sócrates wore in that first game against Spain was improvised, and was created using one of the Brazil squad’s socks! This is hard to spot at first glance, but it becomes clearer when the headband is looked at in more detail – as visitors to the FIFA World Football Museum’s exhibition can attest to.

Not only did the mercurial midfielder make an impression ahead of that game against Spain on 1 June 1986, but he had an impact during it as well. His headed goal in the 62nd minute was the only goal of the game and enough to see Tele Santana's team claim victory.

Sócrates’ widow Kátia Bagnarelli loaned the object to the museum as a courtesy after staff visited her in Brazil as part of our research for “Brazil 2014 Revisited”. She was also kind enough to share an excerpt from the memoir that she is planning to publish and launch next year. The book Jogo, Ciência, Drogas e Aculuração contains first-person stories that her legendary husband told Kátia before his death in 2011.

Below is the exclusive story behind that first headband, how it came about and why it may have been overshadowed – as told by Dr Sócrates Brasileiro himself:

When we got to Mexico, the disaster caused by a terrible earthquake that had struck the country before the start of the World Cup was the trigger that made up my mind to seize the opportunity at a time when the whole world was watching the event and to highlight some critical points of social reality. More or less like something that is usually done in certain sporting events when a truce is proposed during armed conflicts throughout the period of the games.

Of course, no one ever imagined that this could actually happen - especially on such a large scale. But simply putting some of the contemporary controversies and issues on the table was a good reason to hope that their numbers would decrease. I was determined to do something, all that remained was to find a way of delivering the messages. I found the answer while watching an innocent little girl wearing a graceful tiara on a TV show. Immediately, I started looking for someone who could make me a headband for each game and, to make things worse, in record time as there was less than a week before the start of the World Cup.

Fortunately, it all worked out and there I was with the words against the absurdities that exist in humanity on my forehead. It was intended to be a surprise but a trivial distraction spoiled the noise expected. As we lined up before our opening game, the stadium speakers played the anthem dedicated to the Brazilian flag - rather than the country’s official national anthem. Any reactions against poverty, wars, imperialism, social injustice, endemic illiteracy and many others topics were overcome as I shook my head upon hearing the first chord, and I listened to the mistake during the execution of one our main symbols.

But it was worth the attempt. It is much better to try, I believe, than to conform.

Sócrates celebrates scoring against Spain at the 1986 World Cup | ©Imago - Buzzi