BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 30 December 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d8343
  1. Fernando Duarte, Brazilian journalist and media consultant
  1. fduarte2{at}

A would-be orthopaedic surgeon who became one of football’s greatest midfielders

The Brazilian footballer nicknamed Dr Sócrates was one of the finest talents of his generation. Not only did he hold a medical degree but also for years he felt divided between his life as a professional athlete and thoughts of following a career as an orthopaedic surgeon. In fact, even when he made a choice of the green of the pitch over the green of the scrubs, it was far from clear which aspect of his life the tall midfielder loved most.

“I have always had three loves: football, medicine, and beer,” Sócrates used to joke. “When I started playing I had this deal with my dad that I would not forfeit my education for the game and would get a degree I could use if things didn’t work in football. Even when I got my diploma I still didn’t know what to do.”

Sit-ups on his own

Sócrates had already passed his residency exams when he finally made the decision, in early 1978. By then he had lost count of how many times he had had to run around …

View Full Text

Sign in

Log in through your institution

Free trial

Register for a free trial to to receive unlimited access to all content on for 14 days.
Sign up for a free trial