The 1962 World Cup was a life changer for Brazil’s Amarildo

Amarildo Tavares da Silveira is proof that a successful World Cup campaign can change a player's life.

The untested striker came off the bench to play for an injured Pelé— arguably the best soccer player of all time — in the 1962 World Cup. And even more than a decade after Brazil’s defeat in the 1950 World Cup at the hands of Uruguay, Amarildo said the Brazilian team was still feeling pressure to make up for that devastating loss.

He was more than nervous.

“For me the responsibility was enormous,” said Amarildo, who will be 74 years old at the end of June. “Pelé was always a star and I was called in to replace him in the game against Spain. It was mata-mata (do or die).”

He knew what was at stake: If Brazil lost, he would be blamed.

One thing that helped him settle down was the fact that there were four other players on the national team from his Rio soccer club, Botafogo. ““I felt comfortable, like I was just playing with my team,” Amarildo said.

And he came through, scoring both goals in Brazil’s 2-1 victory, taking his team to the quarterfinals. “My history changed that day,” said Amarildo as he reminisced recently at Maracanã Stadium where he played many games for Botafogo.

As Brazil continued on to beat England in the quarter final and then Chile in the semis, Pelé, who desperately wanted to play, tried to recuperate from his groin injury.

But once again, it was Amarildo in for Pelé in the final at Chile’s Estadio Nacional. He scored Brazil’s first goal and assisted on a second to help push his team to a 3-1 victory over Czechoslovakia.

“My history continued in the game,’’ said Amarildo who played from 1957 to 1974 in both Brazil and Italy. “Unfortunately, the most important game in my career came when the greatest player ever was injured.”

Now Amarildo is one of six former Brazilian players selected by FIFA to serve as ambassadors promoting “the biggest football show on the planet.”

For this 2014 version of the World Cup, he said, heat may be a factor. “Heat can make things more difficult but learning to cope is part of conditioning. You need to conserve energy.”

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