- Associated Press - Sunday, December 4, 2011

SAO PAULO (AP) - On and off the field, former Brazil star Socrates stood out above the rest.

His elegant style and his deep involvement with politics made him a unique figure in Brazilian soccer, setting him apart from the players of his time and even of today.

He was mostly known for captaining Brazil at the 1982 World Cup, regarded by many as the best team ever not to win football’s showcase tournament.

But he was also widely known for his heavy drinking, which he publicly admitted caused the health problems which eventually helped lead to his death on Sunday.

The Albert Einstein hospital said in a statement that Socrates died of septic shock at 4:30 a.m. Brazilian time (0630 GMT). He was 57.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said Brazil lost “one of its most cherished sons.”

“On the field, with his talent and sophisticated touches, he was a genius,” she said in a statement. “Off the field, … he was active politically, concerned with his people and his country.”

Former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva also expressed his sadness for the loss.

“Socrates’ generous contribution to Corinthians, to football and to the Brazilian society will never be forgotten,” said Silva, an outspoken fan of Corinthians, the club where Socrates thrived in the 1980s.

Socrates had been rushed to the hospital a few days ago and had been in critical condition in an intensive care unit with an intestinal infection. He was breathing with the help of a ventilator.

It was the third time in four months that he was hospitalized and placed in intensive care, most recently in September. The first two times he was admitted for a hemorrhage caused by high pressure in the vein that carries blood from the digestive system to the liver.

Socrates never denied his fondness for drinking from the time he was a player in the 1980s, but said he stopped drinking earlier this year after his stints in the hospital.

“Socrates seemed like a player from another era,” former Italy forward Paolo Rossi told the ANSA news agency. “You couldn’t place him in any category _ on the pitch and even more so off it. Everyone knew about his degree in medicine and he had a lot of cultural and social interests as well. He was unique from every point of view.”

Indeed, Socrates was like no other on and off the field. He became a doctor after retiring from football and later became a popular TV commentator and columnist, always with unique and controversial opinions.

Since his playing days, Socrates never kept his political ideas to himself and often wrote about the subject in his columns. Known as Dr. Socrates because of his practice of medicine, he was constantly in demand from local media for interviews on varied subjects.

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