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FILE PICTURE: A man casts his shadow over the grave of former Brazilian soccer player Mane Garrincha, with an inscription that's read: "Here rests in peace the one who was the Joy of the People - Mane Garrincha," at cemetery in Pau Grande city near Rio de Janeiro, this pictures taken on September 23, 2004. REUTERS/Bruno Domingos


By Andrew Downie

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The Brazilian cemetery that buried twice World Cup winner Garrincha in 1983 has lost the player's bones, family and officials in his home town said on Wednesday.

Garrincha, who was nicknamed "the Joy of the People" for his brilliant performances on the right wing, won World Cups in 1958 and 1962 alongside players such as Pele and Mario Zagallo.

He died in 1983 after a long battle with alcoholism and was buried in his home town cemetery in Mage, around 40 miles from Rio de Janeiro.

But an official there told Rio's Extra newspaper his remains had been exhumed and there was no record of what happened to them.

"From our research, we're not sure he's still buried," the official said. "We have information that the body was exhumed and taken to a niche but there is documentation about the exhumation."

Brazilian cemeteries are usually split into two sections, those with tombs where bodies are buried and walls with drawer-like concrete niches where ashes or bones are stored.

The Raiz da Serra cemetery in Mage has two tombs with Garrincha's name on them, the paper said.

One is a plot where Garrincha was originally laid in 1983 alongside other members of his family. The second is marked with an obelisk and was built in 1985.

One of Garrincha's daughters told Reuters a gravedigger informed her that he is likely to be in one of the two graves.

But Rosangela Santos said she was upset at the revelation her father is missing.

"We don't know for sure where he is," she said. "The mayor has promised him a mausoleum but they need to find him first. It's very upsetting not knowing where he is."

Santos said the mayor had promised to find her father but Rafael Tubarao did not respond to emails or phone calls.

Tubarao told Extra he would be willing to exhume the bones in both plots to test them for DNA if the family agreed.

(Reporting by Andrew Downie, editing by Ed Osmond)

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