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Gentil Cardoso

Date Born.:

Soccer Coach, Shoeshine Waiter, Baker

Gentil Cardoso

Article available in: PT-BR ESP

Last update: 20/07/2017

By: Lúcia Gaspar - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

Gentil Cardoso Alves was born in Recife, in the neighbourhood of Torre (at the location known as ‘Sítio dos Cardoso’ – Cardoso Farm) on 5 July 1900

Before starting his career as a football coach, he worked as a shoeshine boy, motorman, waiter and baker. He was also a sailor and retired Air Force captain.

At the age of thirteen, he entered the Pernambuco School for Craftsmen, and later joined the Navy, where he participated in operations under the command of the British during the First World War (1914-1918). He was awarded with the Victory Medal,Combat Cross (first class), South Atlantic Campaign Medal and the Order of Military Merit,and was considered a hero by his former military colleagues.

After the Navy, he served in the Air Force, where he ended his military career.

He took courses of auxiliary machinist and aviation technician in the old School of Navy professionals.

He began his career as a football coach in Rio de Janeiro, where he coached all the teams of that period, with the exception of Madureira. He made history in Rio football, especially withthe teamsfromFlamengo and Vasco da Gama. He won a state championship with Fluminense (1946) and Vasco (1952). He was responsible for the signing of Garrincha when he was the coach of Botafogo.

He also coached Corinthians and Ponte Preta (Campinas), from São Paulo, and led the Brazilian team in the South American Championship of 1959. He was never asked to coach the Brazilian team for the World Cup, according to him, due to racism. This was one of his greatest frustrations.

[...] I never coached a Brazilian team. Because I wasn’t a good coach? Or why … At one time, in Rio de Janeiro, among three considered coaches, I was the only one that met all the legal requirements, as well as championships won. I ended up being overlooked. Behind two rookies in the profession. All because of colour. Nothing more...

Gentil Cardoso was the first coach who became champion with the big three teams from Pernambuco: Sport Club do Recife in 1955, Santa Cruz Futebol Clube in 1959 and Clube Náutico Capibaribein 1960.

Despite having coached for 44 years of his life, he became better known for being the creator of quips and funny stories than by titles won as a football coach.

Some ofhis, for example, are term ‘cobra’ (snake), to indicate a good player, the expression ‘vai dar zebra’(‘it will produce a zebra’), when a small team will face a great team and might win, or ‘deu zebra’ (‘it produced a zebra’) when it happens.

Many of his phrases are part of the folklore of Brazilian football and are repeated even today:

• ‘The star treats the ballas you, not your excellence.’
• ‘He who moves receives [the ball], he who asks has priority.’
• ‘From now on, I want everyone going up and kicking the ball inside the area from any angle. You know how it is:against small teams,the ball in thebutt is a penalty.’
• ‘The ball is leather, leather comes from the cow, the cow likes grass, so keep the ball on the grass, my son.’
• ‘I’m with the people and whoever is with the people doesn’t lose the power.’
• If you give me Ademir, I will give you the championship (when Fluminenseaccepted his request to hire Ademir da Guiaand becameRiostate champion in 1946).
• Meu time vencer é a mesma coisa que dar zebra no jogo do bicho (quando treinava o fraco time da Portuguesa do Rio de Janeiro).
• A victory from my team is like a zebrain the ‘jogo do bicho’ (‘animal game’ – a gambling game involving animals that represent numbers, in which there is no zebra) Said when training the weak Portuguesa team in Rio de Janeiro.
• I’m only invited for funerals; no one invites me to eat wedding cake. (Because it was said that he was only invited to coach teams with serious problems).


Gentil Cardoso died in Rio de Janeiro, on 8September 1970.

Recife, 27 may 2011.
Translated by Peter Leamy, January 2012.a

sources consulted

ALBUM de Futebol - Gentil Cardoso – o filósofo. Jornal O Estado de São Paulo – 1970. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 25 maio 2011.

GENTIL Cardoso. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 27 maio 2011.

GENTIL Cardoso. Disponível em:<>. Acesso em: 25 maio 2011.

GENTIL Cardoso [Foto neste texto]. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 19 jul. 2017.

GENTIL Cardoso: a cor me persegue! Revista do Nordeste, Recife, ano 2, n. 14, p. 28-31, maio, 1959.

how to quote this text

Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Gentil Cardoso. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at:  <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009