Felix Miéli Venerando, who won the nickname Paper for his slight frame and the way he flew through the air to make spectacular saves, played in all six of Brazil’s matches in the 1970 tournament.
I met Felix back in around 2006 when I was working on a book project about Pele. Part of my brief was to meet up with former players and get them to sign a photo of the 1970 team.
I met with Felix and Clodoaldo in a Sao Paulo hotel.
There was a delay in getting their fee and so we sat around chatting while we waited. He was a nice lad, Felix. Unassuming and fairly quiet, with the air of someone who had signed a million photos and seen it all before.
He was already hunched over and looked old and tired.
But he was also one of the few players in that side who didn’t make lots of unreasonable demands just to sign the photos. Everyone got paid but a few players, most notably Jairzinho and Gerson, were an absolute nightmare to deal with. Felix was a pussy cat in comparison.
I always believed that Felix was the weak link in the team but that was more from what I’d heard rather than from any reliable first-hand information. I was too young to see the 1970 team and back then Brazil was known as the country of brilliant midfielders and strikers and dodgy goalies.
His former team mates tried to poo-poo that notion on Friday. Perhaps the best comment came from defender Piazza, who played in front of him and knew him well.
“Every great team begins with a great goalkeeper,” Piazza said. “He might not have been a consensus choice among fans but he was a great goalkeeper and as a defender he gave us confidence.”