Football in the 1940’s and 50’s had Alfredo Di Stefano as one of the top ambassadors of the game. But there was another one that was another player that was the antithesis of the “Blonde Arrow” at least on the pitch.
Heleno De Freitas (photo) was one of the biggest footballing stars post-World War II in South America. He is also one of the two greatest idols of Botafogo alongside Garrincha.
He was the next star that would follow Leonidas after he was finished come the end of the 1938 World Cup. Although he was part of the
Many also considered him the opposite of Garrincha. While Garrincha was more organized chaos, De Freitas was pure elegance. His posture was perfect, he moved on the pitch with grace, and this also was amplified with charisma as well as animal magnetism with the ladies. He was well-educated as he was a licensed lawyer and had a particular eloquence when he spoke.
He was also a man filled with nerves and sometimes hard to deal with prior to matches. Many fans nicknamed him “Gilda” after a Rita Hayworth character in one of her movies. Based on that you can only imagine what type of dramatic attitude he had.
The difference between him and Garrincha was that his predecessor won the big titles with Botafogo, while De Freitas only won two cups. He did win a Cariaocão with Vasco Da Gama two years after his departure from the team with the lone star. One thing that could not be denied was his scoring penchant. He was the scoring machine of the time for a powerful Botafogo side scoring 209 goals in 234 matches.
His marks also impressed on the Brazilian national team where he scored 15 goals in 18 matches.
In 1948, De Freitas made a move from his beloved Botafogo and move to Argentine giants Boca Juniors. His transfer fee was the highest in club’s history at that time. During that one season, De Freitas was able to become an idol with the Xeneize. During his season there at Boca he was a vital part of the team on attack. His play on the pitch was overshadowed significantly when he was being allegedly connected to having a love affair with Eva Perón.
That connection with the Argentine first lady was never confirmed, still it was part of the magnetism and myth that was part of the persona of Heleno De Freitas.
He would play one season with Vasco Da Gama and then in 1950 he made the jump to the Colombian pirate league where he would land with Barranquilla side Junior.
His 11-year career saw him score well over 200 goals in Brazil alone. By many he was considered the pioneer of the Brazilian school of thought in Colombia during the El Dorado era back in the late 40’s and 50’s. He was considered one of the 25 greatest Brazilian players to have ever played for the national team.
In the month of June, Brazilian filmmaker Jose Henrique Fonseca began shooting the film “Heleno” that narrates the life of the Botafogo legend. Actor Rodrigo Santoro is playing the role of the footballer. The movie is scheduled to be released sometime in 2011.
De Freitas would also become a idol at the club off the Atlantic coast of Colombia as he became the undisputed star of Los Tiburones. There his lifestyle was a lavish one considering the area and the idiosyncrasy of Barranquilla fit hand in glove with Heleno.
He would then leave and end up at Brazilian side America, but would only end up playing in one match after being sent off minutes after play began.
He would eventually retire but his personal life continued to be hectic one, but it would eventually take its toll on him.
Complications from a case of syphilis left him bedridden and was forced to enter a psychiatric clinic for the final six years of his life. Heleno de Freitas died on November 9th, 1959 at the age of 38.