Garrincha was one of soccer’s first true legends, winning two World Cups as part of an unbeatable Brazilian strike force that also featured Pelé. The “Little Wren” scored 12 goals in 50 appearances for Brazil between 1955 and 1966, winning the World Cup in both 1958 and 1962–featuring in the Best XI side at the former, and being named the most outstanding player of the latter.
Since his death, Brazil has honored his memory by naming the national stadium in Brasilia after the striker. To say he is a national legend is to undersell how impactful his 11 years on the Selecao truly were. That’s why it’s making for a bizarre newsday in the country that Garrincha’s bones appear to be missing from their supposed final resting place.
— Fútbol Internacional (@MarcaFutbolint) May 31, 2017
Garrincha was said to be buried in Magé’s Raiz da Serra cemetery, located in the Baixada Fluminense region of Rio de Janeiro. These days, however, there is no any guarantee that his bones remain buried there. “From what we have studied, there is no certainty that he is buried,” cemetery director Priscila Liberio told Brazil’s O Globo.
Garrincha’s cousin, Joao Rogoginsky, said the Brazil star’s bones were removed in 2007, when another relative who was supposed to be buried in the same location passed away.
According to the BBC, Brazilian cemeteries are typically divided into two areas. One area for tombs containing bodies, and one area for walls with niches containing bones or ashes. However, Garrincha was not present at the 2007 exhumation and “the family did not receive any documents” regarding the removal of his bones, said Rogoginsky. A site administrator confirmed this, stating that “there’s no certainty that he’s buried. We have information that the body was exhumed but there is no document that proves this.”
As expected, this ordeal is taking a toll on Garrincha’s closest family. “My father did not deserve this. It’s very upsetting not knowing where he is. The mayor has promised him a mausoleum, but they need to find him first,” said daughter, Rosangela Santos.
Rafael Tubarao, the Mayor of Magé, had plans to honor Garrincha in October for his 84th birthday. The mayor has proposed running DNA tests on whatever remains are left, provided the former Botafogo star’s family agree to another exhumation. “If the family agrees, I will make an exhumation of the graves, and a DNA test to know if one of the bodies is Garrincha’s,” Tubarao said.