Pradip Choudhury We never got to see Pele play at a World Cup because there was no television at the time. The majority of us would read match reports line by line in an effort to comprehend the God of Football. We were fortunate in the 1970s when the national channel showed a few documentaries, one of which featured Pele. At the time, we could only comprehend his size.
I had the chance to see him perform live in 1977. That year, I played middle back for that Mohun Bagan team, which had a lot of great players. Playing him was a dream come true. I still remember how he looked and moved, 45 years later, but I can’t even begin to express how I felt!
When the Mohun Bagan players learned that we would play an exhibition match against Pele’s New York Cosmos team, we were concerned. At the World Cup, Carlos Alberto and Giorgio Chinaglia from Italy were on the Cosmos team alongside Pele. We behaved as if we were confronted with it. We were scheduled to point once more in the direction of the East Bengal in the IFA Safeguard final three days after the Universe presentation match. The previous day, we had lost to East Bengal. It was very easy to comprehend our strategy: not to lose a lot because doing so would anger our fans and demoralize the team ahead of the crucial game against East Bengal.
Gautam Sarkar and I were given specific responsibilities by our coach, PK Banerjee. Gautam was to follow Pele into the Cosmos half, and I was in charge of marking him in our half. I can now say that the great man was largely under our control. Despite the fact that everyone remembers the game ending at 2-2, a lot happened during it.
There was no way to play on the Eden Gardens pitch. In any case, it was everything except a field for football. It rained continuously for three days leading up to the match. The surroundings were awful. The organizers improved the playing surface with sand, but it was still poor. Because it was so bad, Pele was close to leaving the situation. His insurers had advised him not to play at all. The great man kept playing.
From short proximity, I could see him pass and get the ball. He once placed his body between me and the ball with his back to me. What talent! He possessed class and touch, despite the fact that we were aware that this Pele was not at his best. He chested the ball down while he was in the air, and I remember that both of his legs were ready to work their magic before he even landed. The right leg was to shoot, and the left leg was to land. This was something I had never considered before. The one-on-one experience he had with our goalkeeper Shivaji Banerjee is another detail that sticks out to me. Shivaji might have been hurt if Pele had scored. By directing clear of Shivaji rather than pursuing a goal, he demonstrated his significance.
Even though football lacks appeal, their first goal, scored by Carlos Alberto, forced us to start playing instead of playing defensively. Our equalizer was scored by Shyam Thapa, and Akbar gave us the lead. We could see that some Cosmos players were resting because they were worried about getting hurt. However, following their defeat to an Indian club team, they resumed their aggressive play. They got the equalizer after a controversial penalty. It is safe to say that the way the game ended was satisfactory for both teams.
Later that evening, we all went to his hotel to see him. He posed for pictures to express his appreciation for our kindness. It was hard to talk to him because he could only say “yes,” “no,” “do this,” and “do that” in English. The remainder was conducted in Portuguese! As a result, when a lot of people say, “Pele said this to me” or “Pele suggested this to me,” I find it funny. These assertions are false in every way.
We gained worldwide fame during our match with Pele. I led the Indian contingent that went to Zambia in the same year. We were greeted by a large number of enthusiastic fans who were waiting for us when we got to the air terminal; They were honoring the Indians who had stopped Pele by paying their respects! Because of how we played against The Man, they thought we were a decent team.
He will never be compared to anyone.
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