Wall Street Times

Pelé: The numerous tales behind the legend

Image Source: Marca

Pelé was one of the first young black athletes to become a television celebrity, encouraging Africans across the continent to admire and love him.

Pelé was invited to play friendly games with his club Santos FC and the Brazilian national team as decolonization movements spread across Africa in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Pelé stated in his memoirs that the years that followed and his many journeys to Africa “changed not just how I saw the world, but also how the world saw me.”

Guilherme Nascimento, who compiled the FC Santos Almanac, was correct when he stated that the African journeys were “so full of legends that there is no clear distinction between reality and fiction.”

For example, his stay in Algeria was like something out of a movie.

The 24-year-old arrived in 1965 as Gillo Pontecorvo was filming the Battle of Algiers.

So it was usual to see war tanks driving from downtown Algiers to the Casbah.

Algerian President Ahmed Ben Bella, a football fanatic, has scheduled two friendly games for the event, one on June 15 in Oran and another four days later in Algiers.

However, on June 17, Houari Boumediene, Ben Bella’s Minister of Defense, launched a coup that deposed the president and halted the second match.

Some well-known journalists and historians believe that Boumediene manipulated the uproar surrounding Pele’s arrival to divert attention away from his revolution.

Pele’s excursions to Morocco were less thrilling, but they were nonetheless unforgettable.

During the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, he was alleged to have complimented the Moroccan team. As a result, Morocco became the first African country to qualify for a World Cup since Egypt in 1934.

On another occasion, he was accused of discussing Larbi Ben Barek, a Moroccan player who played for Olympique de Marseille and Atletico Madrid.

Six caps to see Pelé in action

Pele’s excursions to Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are also legendary.

On both journeys, he was claimed to have made the country where he was staying more tranquil.

There was a civil war in Nigeria from 1967 to 1970, but when Pele visited there in 1969 to play a friendly game against the Nigerian national team, there were reports of a 48-hour truce.

“I’m not sure it’s entirely real,” Pelé admits in his autobiography.

“But the Nigerians made sure that the Biafrans didn’t attack Lagos while we were there,” he recalled, recalling many soldiers present. The rebels in Biafra were at least 500 kilometers (310 miles) away, and the army was forcing them back, so that would never happen.

By 1976, the American soft drink manufacturer Pepsi had conquered Pelé’s renown on the African continent and financed the retired star’s journey to Kenya and Uganda.

“The King” was able to spread the word about the drink while instructing young football players from both countries at various clinics.

Adults in Kenya were required to bring six bottlecaps of soft drinks, while children were needed to bring three.

Pelé has visited Mozambique, Egypt, Sudan, Senegal, and Ghana.

Pelé’s image meant a lot to aspire football players all over Africa, even when he wasn’t there.

“When I went to Europe, the only African stars I could see were Pelé, Mohamed Ali, and Eusébio,” remarked Salif Keita, a former Malian player.

Abedi “Pele” Ayew, one of Ghana’s top players, is named after the legendary Brazilian star.

He told the BBC, “His greatness was a major source of motivation for me. To be compared to him and to carry his great name throughout my playing career and beyond is an exceptional honor and a valuable pleasure.”

Pelé has always pushed African players to perform better in Fifa World Cup games.

In the mid-1970s, he prophesied that an African team would win the tournament before 2000. This forecast is always discussed before each competition.

His last social media message seems fitting to congratulate Morocco on their historic World Cup victory in Qatar.

His celebrity is undeniable, and his global influence speaks far more about him than his race or country of birth.

However, hearing those comments is crucial for Brazil’s black people. A lot. And they demonstrate a shift in thought that has been ongoing for decades, with Pelé playing a significant role.

Because Pelé became a national treasure in a country with a long history of enslavement and conflict.

Read Also: Pele passed away aged 82

He was frequently nicknamed “monkey” and other racial slurs on the field. He once remarked that if a monkey forced him to stop every game, he would have had to stop them all.

According to Angelica Basthi, who wrote his biography, he provided black people a space and a voice in Brazilian football. Nonetheless, he never actively participated in the struggle against racism.