It’s the final: Benfica against Inter, and it’s a hard battle under torrential rain. There’s no room for slick football here; players are sliding all over the place. It’s the 43rd minute of play. Jair gets the ball from Sandro Mazzola. Jair looks up, shoots, slips in his movement, but the ball takes a deflection and beats the goalkeeper. It’s the winner. Not the best goal in his Nerazzurri career, but it’s the most important. When Inter win the European Cup for a second year running, no one asks what Jair da Costa is doing in Italy.
But it’s worth the wait once he starts playing. The goal on his debut against Genoa is just the beginning of a series of amazing performances. Jair helps win Inter’s first Italian championship during the presidency of Angelo Moratti. And things keep on getting better. The ‘black arrow’ is impossible to stop when he gets into his stride. He performs on the European stage, too, when he finds the net in big games in spectacular fashion. Jair scores four goals in his first European Cup season and three in the second. It’s all about the one on May 27th 1965. That one is worth its weight in gold.
The Spanish national team did not make a good impression during the 1962 FIFA World Cup, eliminated after losses to Czechoslovakia and Brazil in the first round. It wasn’t all for nothing though. The Spanish head coach took advantage of the World Cup to watch the Brazilians train. One player in particular, a 21-year old, very fast and with good feet, stood out. In the national team, he is merely a replacement for Garrincha, but he can make a difference in Italy. So, when in September he comes back in Italy, the “Wizard” brings Jair da Costa with him. At the time, it was not common to see a black player in a football team. There was a lot of curiosity surrounding this tall South American who didn’t speak a word of Italian, and he couldn’t even play to begin with because the two spots in the team for non-EU citizens were already taken.