How Pelé captured my imagination

On Oct 1, 1977: Pele retired from football after 1,363 games, in which the Brazilian scored 1,281 goals.
On Oct 1, 1977: Pele retired from football after 1,363 games, in which the Brazilian scored 1,281 goals.

At 14, and loving the game of football like no one else, I missed a great opportunity to meet the man himself. Pelé was on a visit to Mauritius, and my school was one of the institutions that were to send a team of youngsters to meet Pelé on the locally famous George V stadium.

I chickened out when came the day for the departure to the stadium. I stayed in the class, while those who wanted to go, boarded the bus.

I recall that a young Mauritian of Chinese descendant scored a penalty against Pelé in a shootout session. He was acclaimed as a hero by the crowd, I was told.

Yet, I am sure I could have scored a penalty too, against Pelé.

From that day, I never kept my eyes off the greatest football player of all time, until his retirement from active football.

Pelé had a television show, in which he will show football skills. I have never seen another show like this until now, since Pele is really a great instructor.

He showed how to do banana shots, and how to compose oneself to take penalty shots, great penalty shots. He also showed how to trick players with your feet, and how to play the ball with both the left and the right foot.

What I could not follow though, was the headers. He clearly showed what one should do to catch flying balls in the air, and how to spring up on your toes and get high into the thin air to head the ball in the net.

Pelé even instructed the audience how not to get mud or anything from ball in the eyes, by keeping the eyes close right before the moment the ball hit your forehead.

Incredible is it not?

I picked up all the skills, including the vision on where to pass and why, and how…but I never really played football on any other scale but as an amateur.

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