Sunday, 10th December 2023

Pele: World king of football had Warri ancestry

By Tony Afejuku
06 January 2023   |   2:18 am
That Pele, the World’s best player ever, is dead is no longer news. That this Brazilian with Nigerian blood that ran in his body has been buried on Tuesday, January 3, 2013 in a ceremony that was superbly attended by a huge crowd that was clearly more than a hugely huge crowd...


That Pele, the World’s best player ever, is dead is no longer news. That this Brazilian with Nigerian blood that ran in his body has been buried on Tuesday, January 3, 2023 in a ceremony that was superbly attended by a huge crowd that was clearly more than a hugely huge crowd is also no more news. What I saw on television as the super immortal World King of Football was laid to rest in the port city of Santos was something I cannot exceedingly convey here today no matter how hard I try to do so. The size of the event was outstandingly beyond measure as Pele’s reputation the world over was magnificently beyond measure. This cannot but be universally agreed upon.

Now let me state very quickly that when I took the decision to do this column today, I wanted to focus on aspects that had not been focused on concerning his Nigerian, specifically his Warri, Niger Delta, Nigerian ancestry. But I decided to shelve it until another time. I was going to say something so little but also at the same time so massive. Yet I needed (and still need) an auspicious time to leaven it.

One more thing I should say. On Sunday, January 01, 2023 afternoon Channels Television Sports Hot News – I hope I am not missing the exact name – interviewed Coach Izilien on the matter of Pele’s Santos Club’s visit to Benin City in 1969 to play a friendly match with a selected Mid-West Football team. It was in the thick of the Nigeria-Biafra civil war. Izilien surprisingly denied that Pele’s visit did not lead to a temporary suspension of hostilities between the warring sides. Izilien’s interviewer wanted to know from him what actually transpired as a member of the Mid West selected team. Of course Izilien’s interviewer wanted him to confirm the worth of Pele’s influence around the world including Nigeria specifically. Izilien was dead wrong. I shall at another time give the coach a fitting reply as I was conversant with the event – even of youngish age then. For now I will simply state that coach Izilien was dead wrong and dead wrong.

My main mission today is to add my voice to the voices of all beyond boundaries mourners of the authentic king and god of football called Pele, the universal name the black pearl and absolute poetry-in-motion-in-the-field-of-play whose real name was Edson Arantes do Nascimento was known by. The different tributes to Pele captured his essence as a being of the universe and as the greatest athlete of the world in the twentieth century according to the International Olympic Committee that so recognized him in 1999.

I am not going to pretend here that I am putting forth in any peculiar way words that intensify the eternal massiveness of Pele’s football reputation, popularity and influence. I am putting forth some eternally rich tributes that enhance my picture of the super gem that is incomparable with any football icon, dead or living. Because of what appears to me as the silly attempt and debasing exercise to revise Pele’s un-paralleled gift of genius, I hereby tender what Argentine players, coaches and administrators at different times said about Pele whose picture had the colouring of an eternal painting that no player from Argentina truly had – or has ever had. Read the thoughts from Argentina, Brazil’s eternal foe, for your enlightenment.

“Pele was more intelligent than Maradona as a player, he understood football much better.” (Daniel Passarella – Argentina World Cup Wining Captain); “Pele was much better than anyone else, not just Maradona. Maradona was more showy for being left-handed, and left-handers, as they are fewer in number, give the feeling of doing different things. The best of all was Pele, who is a mixture of Di Stefano, Maradona, Cruyff and Leo Messi.” (Cesar Luis Menotti – Maradona former Argentina and Barca manager); [furthermore,]

“It’s ugly to compare but the greatest was Pele. If we believe that God made man, with Pele He made him perfect. He lacked nothing, header, physical power, dribbling, finishing, inspiration, genius, temper, vision, goal. Everything.” (Cesar Luis Menotti);

“Pele had everything. He was a panther dressed in white, I played with him. He entered to play in the last minute and he could turn the match. And the big difference is that Pele on the field created fear, Maradona didn’t.” (Hugo Gatti – ex Argentina goalkeeper);
Hugo Gatti further stated: “For me, it is Pele, Alfredo Di Stefano and Maradona, in that order. I appreciated Diego, he is a great player. But Pele was from another planet, not him.”

“Pele is the greatest of all, Maradona and Messi follow him.” (Ricardo Bochini – former Argentina player and Maradona’s team mate); “The best are Pele, Maradona and Cruyff. In that order.” (Claudio Caniggia – former Maradona’s Argentine team mate); “The greatest of all is Pele, he combined everything a football player should have. In second was Bobby Charlton, the two best players I have seen to this day.

Puskas was great too.” (Juan Ramon Veron (former Argentina international and father of Juan Sebastian Veron); “Pele was a player that could not be copied, he was from another world. He was the perfect player.” (Silvio Marzolini – ex Argentina and Boca Juniors player); “Messi and Maradona are different. Diego was a strategist and Messi is an impressive goal scorer. Pele. I played against Pele and he did everything very well;” (Alfio Basil – the only man ever to coach both Maradona and Messi); “Maradona was by far the best player.

“Better than Pele? No, let’s stop there a little bit, the best in Argentina. I played in Brazil, but I am Argentine, I played in the national team against Brazil, I scored goals, but for me the best of all was Pele;” (Rodolfo Fisher); “Diego was great, but for me, he’s after Pele. May those who defend him forgive me.

All the teammates I had with Argentine teammates I had with Argentine teams and national teams say the same thing as me. I have nothing against Maradona, he is the greatest in Argentina, but Pele was the best.” (Rodolfo Fischer).

I deliberately selected these Argentines’ quotes to disabuse the minds of those who are playing the card of football politics in the dolorous attempt to place Maradona and midget Messi at par with Pele the only king and god of football.

But I must end with a pertinently pertinent quote from our very own Ray Ekpu: “Pele was the toast of world leaders. He visited 88 countries, met with 15 kings, 6 Emperors, 72 Presidents and 40 other Heads of state. He is an honorary citizen of more cities and countries than any other person in history. Queen Elizabeth II conferred the knighthood on him. The Shah of Iran decided to wait for three hours at an international airport just to be able to speak and shake hands with Pele. Pele also signed a football for United States President Richard Nixon at the White House in 1973. And when he met another United States President, Ronald Reagan, Reagan introduced himself. “I am Ronald Reagan, the President of the United States” and turning to Pele he said: “Please don’t introduce yourself. Everybody knows Pele.”

Pele is without doubt the world king of football. And now with his translation he ascends to the status of the god of football. Yes. He was the most impactful player, the real super maestro the world had seen. This is one reason why FIFA is recommending that every country should at least name one stadium after Pele. The Warri Stadium, here in Nigeria, should be one of the stadiums to be called by this universally recognized name of Pele. He had his ancestry in Warri. I shall blow this up and garnish it to your stupendous satisfaction at a later date. You better believe and trust me.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.

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