Personal information
Full name Gérson de Oliveira Nunes
Date of birth (1941-01-11) 11 January 1941
Place of birth Niterói, Brazil
Height 1.72 m (5 ft 7 12 in)
Playing position Midfielder
Youth career
1958 Canto do Rio
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1959–1963 Flamengo[1] 58 (33)
1963–1969 Botafogo[2] 67 (20)
1969–1972 São Paulo[3][4] 33 (5)
1972–1974 Fluminense[4] 21 (1)
National team
1961–1972 Brazil 70 (14)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Gérson de Oliveira Nunes, generally known as Gérson Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈʒɛʁsõ], (born 11 January 1941 in Niterói), nickname Canhotinha de ouro (literally: Golden left foot) is a Brazilian former association footballer who played as a midfielder. He won numerous national trophies with the club sides of Flamengo, Botafogo, São Paulo and Fluminense. He is widely known as being "the brain" behind the Brazilian Football Team that won the 1970 FIFA World Cup in Mexico.[5]


Gérson was born and spent his childhood in the city of Niterói, just to the eastern side of Guanabara Bay from Rio de Janeiro, then the capital of the former Rio de Janeiro State. In school he was nicknamed papagaio (parrot), a nickname he kept throughout his life and which many of his fellow footballers used when addressing him.

Both his father and uncle were professional footballers in Rio. His father was a close friend of the legendary Zizinho, widely held as the best Brazilian footballer before Pelé, a superstar with Flamengo and a forward in the 1950 national team, along with Vasco da Gama's Ademir Menezes and Flamengo's Jair da Rosa Pinto. So when Gérson announced he intended to become a footballer himself, he found little opposition at home.[6]

As a boy his heroes had been the aforementioned midfielders Zizinho and Jair and Vasco da Gama's Danilo Alvim. However, in his first club, Flamengo, he was eventually cast in the same mold as the most influential midfield player of that era, Didi. The young Gérson combined technique and an extremely potent left foot shot with intelligence and an uncanny ability to control the game from the midfield. One of his greatest assets was his ability to switch defence into attack with one long, laser-like pass from deep inside his own half. Soon he was being talked of as a successor to Didi.

Within a year of making his professional debut for Flamengo in 1959, he was called to the Brazilian ‘amateur’ team in the Pan-American Games in Chicago.[7] A year later he was a lynchpin of the side at the Rome Olympics where he scored four goals, but Brazil did not make it beyond the group phase.[8] By 1961, he was the playmaker in Flamengo. He had also been recruited into the full national squad to defend the World Cup in Chile by the new national coach Aymore Moreira.[9] Yet his dreams of combining with the bandy-legged ‘Little Bird’ Garrincha, along with Pelé and Didi in Chile were dashed when he suffered a serious knee injury. Forced to undergo surgery, he couldn’t get himself back into Moreira’s squad. It would be one of many injuries to blight his career.

In 1963 he chose not to sign another contract with Flamengo after being assigned the impossible task of man-marking Garrincha in the 1962 Rio de Janeiro Championship final, which Botafogo won 3–0. He packed his bags and moved to Botafogo, which by then had the most celebrated squad in Rio and arguably in Brazil, alongside Pelé's Santos, featuring superstars Garrincha, Didi, Nilton Santos, Zagallo and Quarentinha. In Botafogo he became one of the most celebrated Brazilian players of his generation, winning the Torneio Rio-São Paulo in 1964 and 1965, the Rio de Janeiro Championship in 1967 and 1968 and with the Brazilian Cup in 1968 in two finals against Fortaleza the first national honour in the history of Botafogo.

Later on, he also played for São Paulo and Fluminense, his favourite team.

Gérson is considered one of the best passers in World Cup history. Although he didn't play well in 1966, he was the mastermind behind the whole Brazilian national team in the 1970 tournament. He is regarded as the best passer and midfielder in that Cup and the best player in the final match against Italy. Overall, he played 70 times, scoring 14 goals for his country, including one in that 1970 final.

Outside the soccer pitch, Gérson's name became nationally infamous after he starred in a Vila Rica cigarettes' advertising campaign for television in 1976, which had him read the tagline "I like to take advantage of everything, right? You too take advantage!". The line became instantly associated with the traditional Brazilian disregard for laws and social rules as well as bribery and corruption maneauvers, informally named "jeitinho brasileiro" ("the Brazilian way"), and the expression is largely used to these days.[10] He later publicly regretted having starred in the ad, claiming his association with such acts did not reflect his true personality.


Péle's 125 greatest footballers

Gérson displayed anger towards Pele's list. He was adamant with the ruling and thought that he and a few of his teammates deserved a spot on the list. He symbolically ripped up a piece of paper, a clear representation of Pele's list, on a local broadcasting station saying that, "I respect his opinion, but I don't agree. Apart from Zidane, Platini, and Fontaine, I'm behind 11 Frenchmen? It's a joke to hear this."[11]

Career statistics





São Paulo




References and notes

  1. Fla-Estatística (in Portuguese)
  2. BrFut (in Portuguese)
  3. BrFut (in Portuguese)
  4. 1 2 "Futpedia" (in Portuguese). Futpedia.globo.com.
  5. Kraba, Millie (2002), The Story Has Been Told. p.85. Xlibris Publishers. Retrieved 27 July 2012
  6. The Beautiful Team, In Search of Pele and the 1970 Brazilians by Garry Jenkins, Simon & Schuster, London, 1998. ISBN 0-684-81955-4
  7. RSSSF, José de Jesus Mora Rivera, Dave Litterer, Neil Morrison and Mikael Jönsson: "Panamerican Games 1959 (Chicago)" (there listed as "Garson")
  8. RSSSF, Macario Reyes: "XVII. Olympiad Rome 1960 Football Tournament"
  9. The Beautiful Team, In Search of Pele and the 1970 Brazilians by Garry Jenkins, Simon & Schuster, London, 1998. ISBN 0-684-81955-4
  10. Global Integrity – Brazil Notebook Archived 9 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. Copacabana.info, Pele list of greatest living football players
  12. 100 World Cup heroes (100-81): Sportsmail counts down the iconic players... kicking off with stars Valderrama, Scifo and Barthez
  13. World Soccer: The 100 Greatest Footballers of All Time Retrieved on 20 November 2015
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