Adios, Pele

Brazilian soccer legend Pele,
Photo: Reuters

Everyone saw it coming. Even so, the news that Pele had passed away left me numb with shock. His contributions to football blur boundaries. In Pele, we are talking about a man who devoted his entire life to the betterment of the global game. It's impossible to talk about football without mentioning him. 

The setting in which Pele grew up makes his success even more remarkable. From the 1940s to the 1960s, the world was a restless place. Racial segregation reigned supreme and all ethnic minorities were persecuted incessantly. Against this backdrop, Edson Arantes do Nascimento dreamt to have the world at his feet while growing up in extreme poverty in Sao Paulo. 

Pele's talent was God-gifted. His technical knowledge not only helped his team win titles but also revolutionised footballing tactics. Pele thrived playing in a number of different attacking positions from being a predatory number 9 to weaving intricate passes as a playmaker, to everything in between. It came at a personal cost though. He absorbed tackle after tackle to ensure referees will protect stars in the future.

One of the prime reasons behind his enduring allure is how he reinvented football. He challenged existing stereotypes to allow players to express themselves, regardless of the position they play in. Sure enough, versatility has become common in footballing tactics today. 

In many respects, Pele transformed football into joga bonito (the beautiful game). This generation hasn't seen Pele live. Yet, we are watching Pele play every week. 

Messi took three players on at once and made them look helpless? Pele was doing it for fun in the 1958 World Cup.

Mbappe's skilful dribbling left fans in awe? Pele did it from 1956-77. 

Haaland's goalscoring seems freakish? Pele did this, and much more, all those years ago.

Many of the showboating that we see our stars do, Pele invented them. He has become synonymous with the joys that football brings as he showed football can be a great tool for entertainment for fans as players display their flairs, tricks and skills on the field. 

Brazil's 1970 World Cup team, widely considered the greatest ever, were staunch disciples of this principle. Throughout the tournament, they played an exciting, vibrant brand of attacking football, literally destroying teams in the process. That final captured Pele in a microcosm, scoring once and assisting twice in a 4-1 rout of Italy. 

His on-field exploits made Pele the model ambassador of the beautiful game. Without him, football might not have been as popular as it is today. By not moving to Europe, he handed South American football a lease of life. Such was his brilliance that the then Brazil government declared him a national treasure and barred him from leaving for European clubs in his prime. Touring war-stricken territories like Nigeria and Lebanon, Pele and co. even helped spread peace through football. 

His career swansong for New York Cosmos was remarkable too. The 'Pele Pull' revitalised US football. As fan interest was piqued to watch the king in action, US football's infrastructure improved, becoming a regional powerhouse not long after.

Away from football, Pele led a charmed life. He was caught up in romantic controversies frequently and was alleged to have been corrupted during his political career. Many of these allegations have since been debunked, and although these scars remain, they should, in no way, diminish Pele's standing in football. 

Football owes its existence to Pele. His contributions can't be judged on numbers alone. We might see another Messi or Ronaldo, but we will never see another Pele again.


৯ ঘণ্টা আগে|নির্বাচন

‘ভোটকেন্দ্রে না যেতে হুমকি দেওয়া হচ্ছে’

বরিশাল সিটিতে সুষ্ঠু নির্বাচনের ব্যাপারে উদ্বেগ প্রকাশ করে জাতীয় পার্টির মেয়র প্রার্থী ইকবাল হোসেন তাপস বলেছেন, তারা প্রতিনিয়ত হুমকির সম্মুখীন হচ্ছেন।