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Leônidas in 1940
Personal information
Full name Leônidas da Silva
Date of birth (1913-09-06)6 September 1913
Place of birth Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Date of death 24 January 2004(2004-01-24) (aged 90)
Place of death Cotia, Brazil
Height 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in)[1]
Position(s) Centre forward
Youth career
1927–1929 São Cristóvão
1929–1930 Syrio e Libanez
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1930 Syrio e Libanez[2][3] 5 (5)
1931–1932 Bonsucesso[3][2][4] 39 (23)
1933 Peñarol[5][6] 16 (11)
1934 Vasco da Gama[3][2] 4 (1)
1935–1936 Botafogo[2][7] 19 (8)
1936–1942 Flamengo[8] 88 (89)
1943–1950 São Paulo[9] 120 (93)
Total 291 (230)
International career
1932–1946 Brazil 19 (21)
Medal record
Representing  Brazil
FIFA World Cup
Third place 1938 France [10]
*Club domestic league appearances and goals

Leônidas da Silva (Portuguese pronunciation: [leˈõnidɐz ˈsiwvɐ]; 6 September 1913 – 24 January 2004) was a Brazilian professional footballer who played as a forward. He is regarded as one of the most important players of the first half of the 20th century. At the height of his career, Leônidas da Silva was very popular amongst the people of Brazil and Rio de Janeiro. Leônidas played for Brazil national team in the 1934 and 1938 World Cups, and was the top scorer of the latter tournament. He was known as the "Black Diamond" and the "Rubber Man" due to his agility.

Club career[edit]

Leônidas started his career at São Cristóvão. He then played for Carioca side Sírio e Libanez, where he was coached by Gentil Cardoso. When Cardoso left to coach Bonsucesso, he brought Leônidas with him.[11] Between 1931 and 1932, he played for Bonsucesso before joining Peñarol in Uruguay in 1933. After one year, da Silva returned to Brazil to play for Vasco da Gama. He helped them win the Rio State Championship. After playing in the 1934 World Cup, he joined Botafogo and won another Rio State Championship in 1935. The following year, he joined Flamengo, where he stayed until 1941. Once again, in 1939, the team won the Rio State Championship. He was also at the forefront of the movement against prejudice in football, being one of the first black players to join the then-elitist Flamengo team.

Leônidas joined São Paulo in 1942 and stayed at the club until his retirement from playing in 1950.

The bicycle kick[edit]

Leônidas is one of several possible players credited for inventing the "Bicycle kick". The first time da Silva used this technique was on 24 April 1932, in a match between Bonsucesso and Carioca. In Flamengo he used this move only once, in 1939, against the Argentinian team Independiente. The unusual volley gained huge fame at the time, propelling it into the football mainstream.

For São Paulo, da Silva used the bicycle kick on two occasions: the first on 14 June 1942, in the defeat against Palestra Italia (currently Palmeiras). Most famously of all, he used it on 13 November 1948, in the massive 8–0 victory over Juventus. The play (and the goal) was captured in an image[12] and is regarded as the most famous picture of the player[citation needed]. In the 1938 World Cup, he also used the bicycle kick, to the delight of the spectators. When he did it, the referee was so shocked by the volley that he was unsure whether it was within the rules or not.

International career[edit]

Leônidas played 19 times for the Brazil national team between 1932 and 1946, scoring 21 goals in total, and scoring twice on his debut. In 1938, he was the World Cup's top scorer with 7 goals, scoring at least three times[note 1] in the 6–5 extra time win over Poland.

Nevertheless, his performance also made him be frequently fouled by the Poles. For the next match, against Czechoslovakia, he was not in the ideal conditions, but the Brazilian staff, concerned for possible punishment in using Niginho in Leônidas place, preferred to keep Leônidas in the team; Italian Football Federation had warned FIFA about Niginho's irregular condition: this player, who had Italian Citizenship, was still legally attached to Lazio, the club he left without permission in 1936, due to fear of being recruited by the Italian Army to the Second Italo-Ethiopian War. Leônidas managed to score against the Czechs, but his injuries got worse, making him definitely unable to be used in the next game – the semifinal against Italy. Brazil lost the match 2–1 and for many years the coach Adhemar Pimenta was criticized as many fans, not aware of Lêonidas true poor conditions, believed his absence was just an option arrogantly made by Pimenta "to rest the player for the final". This version still circulates, despite the fact that Leônidas had written a letter, which was published by certain newspapers at the time, in which he clarified that Pimenta had no choice but to rest him due to the Niginho affair.[17]

The Niginho affair also prevented either of the players from playing in the semi-final. In their place, Romeu was chosen as the team's improvised center-forward for the match, scoring Brazil's goal late in the game.[18] Leônidas returned for the third place match and scored two more goals in a 4–2 win against Sweden.

1934 World Cup statistics[edit]

The scores contain links to the article on the 1934 FIFA World Cup and the round in question. The matches' numbers reflect the number of World Cup matches Leônidas played during his career.

Game no. Round Date Opponent Score Leônidas' goals Times Leônidas' playing time Notes Venue Report
1 1st R. 27 May 1934 Spain Spain 1–3 (0–3) 1 55' 90 min. Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genoa 3/results/matches/match=1111/report.html [dead link]

1938 World Cup statistics[edit]

The scores contain links to the article on the 1938 FIFA World Cup and the round in question. When there is a special article on the match in question, the link is in the column for round.

Game no. Round Date Opponent Score Leônidas' goals Times Leônidas' playing time Notes Venue Report
2 1st R. 5 June 1938  Poland 6–5 a.e.t.
(4–4) (3–1)
3 18' 93' 104' 120 min. Stade de la Meinau, Strasbourg 5/results/matches/match=1150/report.html[dead link]
3 QF 12 June 1938  Czechoslovakia 1–1 a.e.t.
(1–1) (1–0)
1 30' 120 min. Parc Lescure, Bordeaux 5/results/matches/match=1152/report.html[dead link]
4 Replay 14 June 1938  Czechoslovakia 2–1 (0–1) 1 57' 90 min. Parc Lescure, Bordeaux 5/results/matches/match=1153/report.html[dead link]
SF 16 June 1938  Italy 1–2 (0–0) 0 Did not play Injured Stade Vélodrome, Marseille 5/results/matches/match=1149/report.html[dead link]
5 3rd pl. 19 June 1938  Sweden 4–2 (1–2) 2 63' 74' 90 min. Parc Lescure, Bordeaux 5/results/matches/match=1151/report.html[dead link]

Personal life[edit]

At the height of his career, Leônidas da Silva was very popular amongst the people of Brazil and Rio de Janeiro. In the 1930s and 1940s, Leônidas was a celebrity against the backdrop of controversy and racial discrimination looming within Brazil during this time.[19] Leônidas had a major impact on and off the field because of his ability to relate to the working classes of Brazil, and his humble beginnings and racial representation led to this national popularity.[19] When his team won the Brazilian Club Championship in 1931, the people of Rio de Janeiro greeted Leônidas and his team in the streets of the city with cheerful crowds dancing and celebrating their victory.[19]

Historically, Leônidas is well known for his contributions to the relationship between consumerism and the business side of football within the country of Brazil.[20] In the year 1938, Leônidas especially gained massive popularity after his appearance in the World Cup tournament and it was around this time he started to receive numerous advertisement offers, such as for watches and cigarettes.[20] His willingness to participate in interviews and being a constant within the public eye helped his fans feel personally connected to Leônidas.[20] Later that same year, a voting popularity contest was held including Leônidas and he received 249,080 votes in his favor, thus winning the contest.[20]

During the 1938 World Cup, Leônidas was nicknamed Diamante Negro (black diamond). In the next year, Brazilian chocolate manufacturer Lacta purchased from him the right to name a chocolate bar as Diamante Negro.[21] This chocolate brand became a commercial success in Brazil.[22][23]

Leônidas joined São Paulo as manager the 1950s before leaving football to become a radio reporter and then the owner of a furniture store in São Paulo. He died in 2004[24] in Cotia, São Paulo, because of complications due to Alzheimer's disease, from which he had been suffering since 1974. He is buried in the Cemitério da Paz of São Paulo.[25]


Vasco da Gama


  • Campeonato Carioca, 1935[26]


  • Campeonato Carioca: 1939[26]

São Paulo

Rio de Janeiro State Team

São Paulo State Team




  1. ^ Some sources claimed that da Silva scored only three goals in the victory over Poland instead of the often quoted four. According to Polish experts, Brazil's six goals were scored by: da Silva (18th, 93rd and 104th minutes), Romeu (25th minute) and Perácio (44th and 71st minute). This is now recognised by the RSSSF[13] and also FIFA itself.[14] In November 2006, FIFA also confirmed that he scored only once in the quarter-final replay against Czechoslovakia, not twice as FIFA had originally recorded.[15] This means he finished as the top goal scorer of the tournament with an official tally of 7 goals.[16]


  1. ^ Strack-Zimmermann, Benjamin. "Leônidas da Silva (Player)". www.national-football-teams.com. Retrieved 12 December 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d "Acervo histórico". Acervo O Globo (in Portuguese). O Globo.
  3. ^ a b c Campeonato Carioca 1930 - Il Turno BrFut (in Portuguese)
  4. ^ RSSSFBrasil
  5. ^ "Pedro y la herencia de los brasileños manyas" (in Spanish). LaRed21.
  6. ^ "De Leónidas Da Silva: El diamante negro" (in Spanish). fronterad.
  7. ^ Campeonato Carioca 1935 BrFut (in Portuguese)
  8. ^ Fla-Estatística (in Portuguese)
  9. ^ Michael Serra. (8 December 2017). Enciclopédia: Maiores artilheiros do São Paulo saopaulofc.net (in Portuguese)
  10. ^ Com Leônidas, na Copa de 38 Brasil chega em 3º lugar (in Portuguese)
  11. ^ Wilson, Jonathan (14 August 2018). Inverting the pyramid : the history of soccer tactics (Second trade paperback ed.). New York, NY. ISBN 9781568589190. OCLC 1024085926.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  12. ^ Leônidas da Silva FIFA Worldcup Golden Boot Winner. 1938 Bleacher Report
  13. ^ "World Cup 1938 finals". RSSSF. Retrieved 25 January 2023.
  14. ^ match data at official FIFA World Cup site
  15. ^ Media release by FIFA, 16 November 2006
  16. ^ "World Cup 1938 finals". Archived from the original on 3 May 2006. Retrieved 7 January 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  17. ^ GEHRINGER, Max (nov. 2005). Faltaram os papéis. Placar Especial "A Saga da Jules Rimet" n. 3 - 1938 França. São Paulo: Editora Abril, p. 37
  18. ^ GEHRINGER, Max (nov. 2005). Derrota amarga. Placar Especial "A Saga da Jules Rimet" n. 3 - 1938 França. São Paulo: Editora Abril, p. 38
  19. ^ a b c Rocha, Everardo; Corbo, William (September 2017). "A STAR PLAYER AND THE WORLD OF GOODS: SOCCER AND CONSUMPTION IN THE PUBLIC IMAGE OF LEÔNIDAS DA SILVA". Sociologia & Antropologia. 7 (3): 799–802. doi:10.1590/2238-38752017v736. ISSN 2238-3875.
  20. ^ a b c d Bocketti, Gregg (2016). The invention of the beautiful game: football and the making of modern Brazil. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. pp. 230–232. ISBN 978-0-8130-6255-6.
  21. ^ "Brazilian Brands: Diamante Negro - eatrio.net". eatrio.net. 26 April 2013. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  22. ^ "Leonidas – the real inventor of the brilliance of Brazilian football". CricketSoccer. 14 January 2018. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  23. ^ Silva, Postado por Rômulo. "TOP 5 - Chocolates mais famosos no Brasil". Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  24. ^ Brian Glanville (27 January 2004). "Leonidas da Silva". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 January 2022.
  25. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20190923024337/http://globoesporte.globo.com/ESP/Noticia/Arquivo/0,,AA666289-4274,00-MORRE%2BLEONIDAS%2BDA%2BSILVA%2BAOS%2BANOS.html
  26. ^ a b c d e "Leonidas: Brazil's first superstar". FIFA.com. Archived from the original on 8 September 2015. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  27. ^ "World Cup Best Players (Golden Ball)". Topend Sports. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  28. ^ "IFFHS' Century Elections". RSSSF. Retrieved 25 January 2023.

External links[edit]