75 years of the ‘Black Diamond’ debut!

On May 24, 1942, Leonidas da Silva wore the Tricolor shirt for the first time and began a victorious era

A Gazeta Esportiva / Revista Tricolor

75 years ago, Leônidas da Silva made his debut for Tricolor during a derby and in a crowded stadium! Overcoming all opponents, he changed São Paulo into one of the great clubs in Brazil. Get to know, below, a little more of the history of the great São Paulo player!

Leônidas was unveiled as a São Paulo player on the radio, on April 1, 1942. He was transferred and the transfer fee payed was the amount of 200 contos de réis (the currency back then). It was a real fortune (just to compare, the federal lottery — the highest prize at the time — on April 4 was 300 contos de réis).

Due to legal problems with the military service board, the athlete was sidelined while playing for Flamengo and many considered that he was done playing soccer. As a true movie star (by the way, in 1951 the player actually worked as an actor, in the movie Suzana and the President), Leonidas was the first Brazilian athlete to become a pitchman. It was not surprising, then, all the unusual things about this negotiation. But it was also not surprising that the fans and the population in general welcomed him effusively.

On May 24, in Pacaembu, in a match between São Paulo and Corinthians, an away match, Leonidas would make his debut for the Tricolor and would revolutionize not only the club, but Brazilian soccer as a whole, awakening a new national giant of this sport. The game was very hard, but with two minutes left, Corinthians scored the equalizer. 3 to 3. In spite of the good debut, the press, in general, condemned Leonidas’ performance and his signing.

This reaction made Leonidas very mad, making him hold a grudge so deep in his heart that he promised himself, and everyone, that he would never again be doubted in a match against that rival. In his own words: “If, on the one hand, these criticisms struck me, they certainly were a great stimulus, making me react against the unbelievers and justify the trust of those who signed me.”

No sooner said than done. Until retiring from the pitch, Leonidas made 19 appearences during matches against Corinthians, from which São Paulo won 10, tied another 4 and Leonidas scored 11 goals! The hint that Leonidas’ arrival was blessed happened during his third match for the club. Against Palestra (14/06), Leônidas scored the only goal of the game in a spectacular and very own way, a trademark of the player — a bicycle goal.

Leonidas’ arrival and the golden era that he unleashed can be considered a milestone of São Paulo’s history as a truly great club. With Leonidas as the star, the team won five State Championships in seven years (1943, 1945, 1946, 1948 and 1949).

Originally published in Portuguese by Michael Serra/ saopaulofc.net

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