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When King Pele Played the “Beautiful Game” With Delhi’s Schoolchildren

The words of Pele from seven years ago, “It’s an honor for me to celebrate the world’s greatest sport with the children of India.” Will always ring in the ears of Delhi football fans. The words of Pele from seven years ago, “It’s an honor for me to celebrate the world’s greatest sport with the children of India,” will always ring in the ears of Delhi football fans. In October 2015, Pele, who is regarded by many as the greatest football player of all time, made his debut in Delhi.

He did so without dazzling skills on the field, but rather as a true promoter of the “beautiful game,” and he quickly won over Delhi’s football fans. His final interaction with Indian football fans and the general public occurred during his two-day trip to Delhi. On October 17, 2015, he was the main guest at the Subroto Cup inter-school football tournament’s boys U-17 final at the Ambedkar Stadium.
He had traveled from Kolkata, where he had spent his first visit in 1977, to Delhi. In 2018, he went back to Delhi for a media house’s closed-door leadership summit.

In that sense, Delhi is fortunate to be the only other city other than Kolkata, where the “Black Pearl” played an exhibition match in 1977 against Mohun Bagan as part of the New York Cosmos team.
Delhi witnessed the iconic footballer as an ambassador of the sport who wanted to assist a “very special country” in rising in the world of football. While fans in Calcutta, as it was known at the time, were mesmerized by glimpses of Pele’s skills, Delhi witnessed Pele as an ambassador of the sport.

“You must construct the base. India is a very special nation, and the support there was outstanding. In a video message, he stated, “I hope my visit will inspire these champions of tomorrow.” Shaji Prabhakaran, the current secretary general of the All India Football Federation and former president of Football Delhi stated, “We have seen in Kolkata and in Delhi how the football fans venerated him.”
In Delhi, his birthday is known as grassroots development day. Prabhakaran said, “Football Delhi made the decision last year when I was president,” and he had the good fortune to see Pele up close on two occasions in 2015 and 2018.

Pele made a round trip of the 20000-capacity Ambedkar stadium on an open-top Indian Air Force jeep prior to the Subroto Cup final on October 16, just a few days before his 75th birthday. He then presented the trophies to the two teams, accompanied by Chief of Air Staff Arup Raha. On October 15, just over 100 people showed up for his reception at the Delhi airport, which was not very impressive. It was just after eight o’clock.

Pele, who had three surgeries that year, one of which was on his hip, limited his movement, got out of the car, smiled broadly, and waved to the crowd. Two days later, things were different at the Ambedkar Stadium. The enthusiastic crowd yelled “Pele Pele” and many fans tried to get close to him and get his autograph. Pele struggled to get to the ground and shook hands with the players of the two opposing teams, which was fortunate for them.

Pele struggled to move around, once a nightmare for his opponents due to his stunning football field runs and footwork. It was a painful sight. He limped through a flight of stairs from the dais and entered the ground after having hip surgery. The indomitable spirit that made him famous and one of the world’s most recognizable faces came to the forefront. After the standard gathering with the two groups, Pele boarded the jeep particularly saved for himself. Made a full circle of the Ambedkar Arena.

As they had an experience of a lifetime, the crowd was anticipating that. Serenades of ‘Dark Pearl’, ‘Lord Pele’, or just ‘Pele, Pele’ swirled around. When Pele first started playing for Santos, he was 15 years old. Before turning 18, he joined the Brazilian national team as a 16-year-old and competed in and won the 1958 World Cup. Pele was named Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee. Suggested that India should encourage its grassroots athletes to play outside of the country as well as focus on the grassroots.

Focusing on the grassroots is crucial. Indian players ought to play in Europe, South America, and other regions. They’ll benefit from that. Additionally, there ought to be programs of exchange with other nations, Pele advised the Subroto Cup organizers. “I can arrange for young Indian players between the ages of 15 and 16 to participate in exchange programs in Rio de Janeiro or elsewhere in Brazil.” I can assist Santos in accomplishing this—his 25-year club. I’ve got this.

On that October 16, 2015, evening at Ambedkar Stadium, “the God of football” was on display. Those who saw it will probably agree with what Dutch legend Johan Cruyff once said. Only Pele was a footballer who went above and beyond logic. Not without reason the Hungarian incredible Ferenc Puskas once said: ” Pele is not a player to me, I say. That was beyond him.

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