FOOTBALL ALL-TIME GREAT, PELÉ CLOCKS 80

FOOTBALL ALL-TIME GREAT, PELÉ CLOCKS 80
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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

World’s greatest footballer of all time, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé clocks 80 this Friday.

At 17 years and 239 days, he became the youngest scorer at the World Cup when he found the net in 1958 duel with Wales.

Five days later he added another record as the youngest player to score a World Cup hat trick in the Sweden ’58 duel with France.

He went on to become the first player with three World Cup winning medals after successes with Brazil in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

He is so popular that he is well known and had met with several heads of states.

On one instance, he was meeting with the US President, Ronald Reagan who introduced self thus:

“My name is Ronald Reagan, I’m the President of the United States of America. But you don’t need to introduce yourself, because everyone knows who Pelé is.”

In 1999, he was voted World player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics and along with Argentina’s Diego Maradona, he won the FIFA Player of the Century Award.

Pele and Sports Villagw Square’s Kunle Solaja at France ’98 World Cup

Still in 1999, the International Olympic Committee elected Pelé as Athlete of the Century. Goal scoring was his habit, as he became the most successful league goal-scorer in the world, scoring 1281 goals in 1363 games, which included unofficial friendly matches and tour games. Among those goals were the two he scored against Nigeria’s Green Eagles during his first visit to Nigeria.

The match ended 2-2 as the then 28-year old Pele scored both goals in the match played on 26 January 1969 at the then Lagos City Stadium. Muyiwa Oshode and Baba Alli scored the goals for Nigeria.

Eight days later at the then Ogbe Stadium in Benin, Pele’s Santos beat the Midwest selected side 2-1. At the 4 February 1969 duel, Pele did not score. Santos goals came from Edu and Negreiros.

During his playing days, Pelé was for a period the best-paid athlete in the world. He began his playing career for Santos Club of Brazil at age 15 and the national team at 16. He has visited Nigeria many times, the last being in 2000 shortly after the Sydney Olympics.

One of his most traumatic experiences was in February 1976 when he, along with some international tennis players was in Nigeria during the abortive coup against the regime of General Murtala Muhammed.

The sportsmen had to seek diplomatic channels to sneak out of Nigeria as all borders were closed.

Even with the advent of modern day strikers, Pelé with 77 goals in 92 games, is still the all-time leading for Brazil.

Pelé also featured as a prisoner of war in the Hollywood classic ‘Escape to Victory’.

In spite of the athleticism in him, Pelé has health challenges. He attended the draw for the Russia 2018 on wheelchair to which he is still confined. He also for long has just one kidney as in 1977 the Brazilian media reported that he had his right kidney removed.

In November 2012, Pelé underwent a successful hip operation. Early this year, Pelé collapsed from exhaustion and was taken to hospital.