Historical Football #6 – The Inadvertent Innovator

Histroical Football returns to The Long Ball with a look at a man who inadvertently innovated something that has become the norm, Hilderado Bellini…

Innovation can be a long, drawn out process that requires patience and plenty of brain cells. It’s how we got the telephone, television, mobile phones and many more. At times, though, innovation can come from out of the blue. It can come from an action that the person thinks nothing of. It can come from a movement that was a reaction. One man who definitely innovated out of nowhere was Brazilian Hilderado Bellini.

Born on the 7th of June 1930 in Itapira, Brazil, Bellini was for a long time one of the most solid and dependable centre backs in Brazil. He was not a flashy player but he was reliable and provided a great foundation from which managers could build a team around. It’s a testament to his abilities that his entire career was spent at the highest level in Brazil as he clocked up over 400 games at Vasco da Gama, over 200 games at Sao Paulo and a short spell at Atletico Paranaense. He won a few regional honours while at Vasco but his main success came at international level.

The iconic image of Bellini holding the World Cup aloft
The iconic image of Bellini holding the World Cup aloft which became a symbol of victory

Bellini spent nine years in the Brazilian set up and gained 51 caps for his country. He was a part of three World Cup squads (1958, 1962 and 1966) and got two winners medals. It was during his time with the national team where Bellini became an innovator.

Following the 1958 World Cup final, the Brazilian team was celebrating on the pitch with the trophy and were surrounded by journalists. The journalists were wanting photographs of the Brazilian players with the cup but their attempts to document this historical moment clearly were being thwarted at every turn by celebrating Brazilians. Bellini, as captain, decided to take the trophy and lift it above his head so that the journalists could see. Sure enough, they snapped away and what followed was incredible.

Bellini became the iconic image of the triumph in Sweden. Pele may have been the star but Bellini was the image. He suddenly represented Brazilian triumph around the world. He began the symbolic raising of the trophy as a gesture of triumph in football. It’s something that is considered normal now but then it was a little revolutionary. The quietly dependable Bellini was now the face of triumph across Brazil and he forever would be.

Bellini is still going strong at the ripe old age of 83 and now has a statue outside the Maracana in Rio of his famous moment of innovation. Many will never know of Hilderaldo Bellini or his inadvertent innovation and perhaps that’s good. After all, he was an excellent player, Brazil’s foundation for two World Cup wins. Most would end up defining his career as the guy who lifted a trophy up and that’s just wrong.

There is another edition of Historical Football. If you did enjoy this or want to leave any feedback then you can either here or on social media (various links down the right).



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