Roberto Dinamite is the all-time top scorer in Brazil’s championship, but fate stopped him becoming a World Cup hero

    TEN days after the death of Pele, Brazilian football lost another of its idols – one of the biggest in the immediate post-Pele era – when Roberto Dinamite died of cancer on Sunday at the age of 68.

    His is not a name that has anything like the same international ramification of Pele – then again, no one else does – but nonetheless his is a name that carries plenty of weight.

    Brazil legend Roberto Dinamite has passed away at the age of 68


    Brazil legend Roberto Dinamite has passed away at the age of 68Credit: AFP
    Dinamite scored more goals than anyone in the Brazilian championship


    Dinamite scored more goals than anyone in the Brazilian championshipCredit: Getty

    Along with Pele, Roberto – Bobby Dynamite – is the only outfield player to have appeared in more than 1000 games for the same club.

    Pele, of course, did it for Santos, while Roberto represented Rio de Janeiro giants Vasco da Gama.

    In their time Vasco have had some truly great players – the spine of Brazil’s wonderful 1950 World Cup side, for example, and more recently the likes of Romario, Edmundo and Juninho Pernambucano.

    But in poll after poll Roberto tops the list. He is Vasco da Gama’s all time biggest idol.

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    A tall, rangy centre forward with a rocket shot – hence the nickname – Roberto did not have the technical repertoire of Pele – again, who does? – but he was direct and relentless, and posed a constant threat to the opposing goal.

    He made his debut as a 17 year old in 1971, the season that Brazil finally launched a genuine national championship.

    By the time he left the scene two decades later he had become, and remains – the leading scorer in the history of the championship.

    Considering that back when he started the best Brazilians still played at home, that is an enormous honour.

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    Roberto’s trademark toothy grin was also seen on the international stage. He had the briefest of spells with Barcelona early in 1980, and got off to a good start in Spain.

    But then there was a change of coach, with the veteran defensive specialist Heleno Herrera taking over. Suddenly there was little space in the line up for Roberto, and faced with the prospect of their idol joining local rivals Flamengo, Vasco paid up to bring him back.

    And he also had a thoroughly respectable career with Brazil.  A record of 20 goals in 38 games is more than adequate – and only fate and poor scheduling stopped him from being a hero in the 1978 World Cup.

    He started the competition on the bench, but came into the team after Brazil got off to a stuttering start. His goal against Austria ensured that Brazil qualified for the second round, where his two goals against Poland appeared to have taken Brazil through to the final.

    But Argentina had a big advantage. They took the field against Peru knowing how many goals they needed to overtake Brazil, scored them all and more before going on to beat Holland and win their first title. It was the biggest disappointment of his career.

    There was another disappointment, though, in the next World Cup. Roberto was a late call up for 1982 after the young Careca dropped out injured.

    But he never got on the field, even though blunderbuss centre forward Serginho was unable to combine successfully with Brazil’s wonderful midfield.

    His first international goal came against England in 1976 – a late strike that gave Brazil a 1-0 win over Don Revie’s side in the Maracana.

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    At the 1978 World Cup poor scheduling stopped Dinamite from becoming a hero for his country


    At the 1978 World Cup poor scheduling stopped Dinamite from becoming a hero for his countryCredit: Getty
    Dinamite scored a massive 502 goals at Vasco de Gama - a record for the club


    Dinamite scored a massive 502 goals at Vasco de Gama – a record for the clubCredit: AFP
    Dinamite is gone but won't be forgotten


    Dinamite is gone but won’t be forgottenCredit: AFP

    Eight years later one of his last games for his country came against the same opposition at the same venue – but this time, with John Barnes inspired, Bobby Robson’s team came away with a famous 2-0 triumph.

    There was no dynamite, then, from Roberto on that occasion. But there was enough over the course of a long career to inspire Vasco fans to join together and finance a statue of him, which stands proudly behind one of the goals in the club’s stadium – a permanent tribute to the memories that he left engrained in the minds of generations of supporters.


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