Pelé: The day I met the God of Football

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It’s not every day you can say you just met and shook hands with the greatest footballer player that has ever lived.

Fortunately, earlier this week, a PR Tour of Australia offered the chance to be blessed with the God of football. Pelé in the flesh. 

An invitation landed in our mailbox last September, offering TURF the chance to attend a gala-event to celebrate the outstanding career Australia’s Mr. Football, Les Murray and featuring the Brazilian legend himself. 

Though, a health scare late last year meant the visit was postponed and only made this encounter on a sunny Thursday afternoon with Pelé that much more significant for this reporter.

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Having had the chance to speak with Les Murray many times previously during the past year about football, there was something special about celebrating the work of two different significant figures in the game at the same time. 

Speaking to Les, he only described the visit only as a result of “fate”. 

A business card left behind in a Sydney restaurant, next to which Murray and his World Game team were having a meeting offered a direct line to Pelé’s management team. One thing led to another and today, Pelé sits in-front of a packed room in the Docklands enthralling his audience with his footballing tales. 

Pelé, originally known as ‘Edson Arantes do Nascimento’ described his skill with a football as “a gift from god”. As a child it quickly became evident that there was something special in young Edson.

‘Your gift to play football is a gift from god, but if you’re not in shape, you will fail,’ a lesson handed down by his father to him when he was just a child.

At a young age, teams that faced Pelé would often refuse to play, knowing he was in the side. Just to get a game he’d take a handicap of three players against the a seven-sided opposition, however, always knowing that he had the odds in his favour.

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His reputation as a player rapidly grew in the school yard and was eventually given his nickname
Pelé, after the way he pronounced the name of his favourite local footballer. 

The 17 year old’s rise
to fame at Santos led him to be selected in the Brazil squad for the 1958 World
Cup. Funnily enough, no one outside of Brazil had heard of him due to the lack
of media coverage. Pele then became to be the youngest World Cup goal scorer, youngest
World Cup player to score a hat trick and then the youngest player to ever win
a World Cup.

Pele then went on to
win another two World Cups becoming the only player to have won three World
Cups. Most goals scored in a specified period 1,279, from 7 Sep 1956 to 1 Oct
1977 in 1,363 games. 

These were the stories that Pelé spoke to an encapsulated crowd and had all of the suits around my table giggling like starstruck five year-olds once more.

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But then it got better – a handshake and a hug to sooth my butterfly filled stomach, yours truly getting the chance to meet the man one-on-one. His rich smile and humbleness is evident to his
personal character. His comforting presence made it feel like he had been
expecting me. This persona graciously adopted by a man who continues to live out his own legacy and more worthy than any silverware he’s claimed.

Words by Ari Charilaou. 

Photo – ESPN.

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