Debunking the intriguing claim that Sócrates played for the UCD Reserve team in the 1970s.
The origins of this long established urban legend are hazy. However, the basic ‘facts’ of the story are as follows: Sócrates, the famous Brazilian soccer player, studied medicine in Dublin in the late 1970s and during his time here played for the reserve team of University College Dublin (UCD).
There are many variations of the story with some placing Sócrates at the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) or even the Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI).
It’s a feel good anecdote that has been doing the rounds for at least three decades. The story is so quirky and original that most people take it at face value and it’s turned up as a question on many a table quiz.
An article in The Irish Times from 1986 is the earliest known reference to this alluring tale. It states as fact that Sócrates played for Shelbourne Football Club during his time studying in the “College of Technology, Kevin Street”. 
It should be said that Sócrates did indeed study medicine while in college but he graduated from the ‘Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirão Preto’ in São Paulo.
In 2000, the urban legend was given a new breath of life after a question was sent into the Guardian’s soccer ‘Knowledge Department’. The newspaper was asked to investigate the claim that “Brazilian footballer Sócrates … spent some of his student years in Dublin … and (that) he only managed to make the UCD reserve team”. 
The question was answered by the late Brendan McKenna, former Football Association of Ireland (FAI) Press Officer, who confirmed that “Sócrates did play for UCD … sometime in the 70s.” and by Gerry Callan of The Irish Star who added that Sócrates played only for the reserves because he couldn’t make the first team’s Saturday games.
The Guardian gave the story yet more veracity in 2002 by incorporating new information from a reader that Sócrates quit the team after only “a couple of games because the coach and manager at the time, Dr Terry O’Neill, insisted that he quit smoking”.  The Mirror also ran a story on Sócrates during this time with the opening line, “Here’s one to stump your mates with. Which Brazilian legend played football for UCD reserves?”.
The programme for the UCD – St. Patrick’s Athletic game in 2003 featured an article on the Sócrates tale. It debunked the claim that he played for UCD but went on to allege that Sócrates studied medicine in the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (RCSI) in 1976. The article also asserted that he went to the RCSI’s trials for their Collingwood Cup team but decided to concentrate on his studies instead after seeing the poor football abilities of his potential teammates.
The China Daily, an English Language newspaper published in the People’s Republic of China, ran an article in 2006 that described Sócrates as “an alumni of the College of Surgeons in Dublin”. 
The legend has recently been given new legs by the addition that Sócrates also won the Sigerson cup, the championship of Higher Education Gaelic football in Ireland. This allegation has been posted as fact on various Irish sport Internet forums.
The Sunday Tribune in 2006 did its best to sink the urban legend with the article “Will Sócrates Myth Ever Be Put To Bed?”  and in its 2008 Sports Trivia Christmas Quiz.  But with websites such as Footbo.com, still affirming that Sócrates “spent time in Ireland and turned out for the University College Dublin (UCD) team” ; the legend isn’t going anywhere soon.
Billy McGrath, who played first team soccer for UCD from 1973 to 1977 (and later for a short time with Pegasus, UCD’s graduate soccer team), can confirm that Sócrates never played for UCD – “At the time the UCD first team was playing in the League of Ireland B division so if he was playing for UCD – and not good enough for the first team – he would have been in the Leinster Senior League”. 
(But what would Billy know? He was probably too busy watching Pele play hurling for Na Fianna in Ballymun during the Brazilian’s time studying marketing in DCU in 1975-1977. The reality that the college did not exist at the time has no bearing on the facts.)
So there you go. Unfortunately, there is no basis whatsoever to the legend that Sócrates played for UCD and it is just too good to be true. Sócrates has himself admitted that he hasn’t even visited Dublin!
 Peter Byrne, “World Cup Stars Played in League”, The Irish Times, June 3 1986
 Sean Ingle, “Knowledge Unlimited”, The Guardian, 13 September 2000
Sean Ingle and Scott Murray, “Shooting from the hip”, The Guardian 10 January 2002
 James Morgan, “The Great Philosopher; A doctor who smoked 20-a-day and led a player’s revolt, Socrates truly was the thinking man’s footballer.” The Mirror, May 27 2002
 Anon, “Smoke on the bench not music to FIFA’s ears”, China Daily, June 15 2006
 Enda McEvoy and Kieran Shannon, “Will Socrates Myth Ever Be Put To Bed?, Sunday Tribune, April 16, 2006
 Enda McEvoy, “Enda McEvoy’s Really Cool Sports Trivia Quiz”, Sunday Tribune, December 21, 2008
 Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira Biography, http://www.footbo.com/Players/Socrates_Socrates/Biography (Accessed 15 June 2009)
 Billy McGrath, email to author, 15 June 2009