Didi in 1958
|Full name||Waldyr Pereira|
|Date of birth||8 October 1928|
|Place of birth||Campos dos Goytacazes, RJ, Brazil|
|Date of death||12 May 2001(aged 72)|
|Place of death||Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil|
|Height||1.72 m (5 ft 8 in)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
Didi (Portuguese pronunciation: [dʒiˈdʒi]), popular nickname for Waldyr Pereira (8 October 1928 – 12 May 2001), was a Brazilian footballer who played as a midfielder or as a forward. He played in three FIFA World Cups (1954, 1958, and 1962), winning the latter two and was awarded the Golden Ball, given to the tournament's best player, for his performance at the 1958 competition.
An elegant player, Didi is considered to be one of the greatest midfielders in the history of the sport, and was renowned for his range of passing, stamina and technique; he was nicknamed the "Ethiopian Prince" throughout his career. A dead-ball specialist, he became famous for inventing the folha seca (dry leaf) free kicks, notably used by modern-day players such as Ronaldinho and Juninho, where the ball would swerve downward unexpectedly at a point resulting in a goal.
Didi was born into a poor family in the city of Campos, 150 miles north of Rio de Janeiro. As a youngster, he sold peanuts in order to help his family, and began playing football in the streets.
Didi nearly had his right leg amputated when he was 14 due to a severe infection following an injury to his knee. He recovered and played for some clubs in Campos dos Goytacazes. He became professional playing for Madureira and came to prominence when he joined Fluminense in 1949. During seven seasons with the club he won the Campeonato carioca in 1951 and 1952 Copa Rio. On 16 June 1950, in a friendly match involving Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo youth state teams, Didi (aged 21), playing for Rio de Janeiro, scored the first ever goal at the Maracanã Stadium.
During the 1954 World Cup he scored goals against Mexico and Yugoslavia, before Brazil's defeat to the favorites Hungary. This match was known as the Battle of Berne; Didi was involved with the brawl that followed this bad-tempered match.
At club level, he moved to Botafogo, winning the Campeonato Carioca (Rio state championship) in 1957. Didi had previously promised to walk from the Maracanã to his house, in the neighbourhood of Laranjeiras (9,4 km), in his kit, if Botafogo won the championship; 5,000 Botafogo fans joined him as he did so.
His greatest achievement came at the 1958 FIFA World Cup where he was player of the tournament. From midfield, he masterminded the first of his two FIFA World Cup successes for Brazil. In 68 international matches he scored 20 goals, including a dozen using his trademark free-kicks.
In 1959 he was signed by Real Madrid of Spain. Despite his great reputation after the 1958 FIFA World Cup, he played only 19 matches with 6 goals for the Spaniards and often clashed with the team leader Alfredo Di Stéfano, who felt offended by the divide in the fans' attention with this newcomer; this situation precipitated his exit from the club. After success at the 1962 FIFA World Cup, he decided to become a coach.
After retiring as player he began a coach career with Sporting Cristal, and was called to manage the Peru national team in the 1970 FIFA World Cup. That team included stars like Teófilo Cubillas and Héctor Chumpitaz were eventually defeated in the quarter finals by Brazil. In 1971, he managed the top Argentine club, River Plate, when he accepted a lucrative position, and had his apex in his coaching career with Fenerbahçe, guiding the team to two consecutive Turkish First Division (later named Süper Lig) titles in 1973–1974 and later in 1974–1975.
In October 2000, he was inducted into the FIFA Hall of Champions. By this time he was quite ill and died the following year in Rio de Janeiro, at the age of 72, after contracting pneumonia from complications arising from intestinal cancer.
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