At the time Brazil was ruled by a military dictatorship. The regime had a cynical slogan aimed at silencing dissent: “Brazil – love it or leave it”.
Socrates had an alternative – change it. He was the leading light in a movement at the club which became known as “Corinthians Democracy”. Players, coaching staff and club employees would vote on all kinds of issues of interest to the collective – from which players to sign, to whether the team bus should stop to allow people to get off and relieve themselves.
This was successful in football terms, transforming a struggling team into a cohesive, victorious unit. Corinthians won the Sao Paulo State Championship in 1982 and 83, a time when the title still meant something.
More than that though, the movement served an educational purpose for millions – imparting the value and virtues of democracy at a time when they were seen as dangerously subversive.
It was an embryo of a future, better Brazil. This is why Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff, herself a victim of the military government, referred to Socrates as “a champion of citizenship” on Sunday.