The three-time World Cup winner was overwhelmed by the depth of talent possessed by a “little known” Indian club when they played on a slushy and packed Eden Gardens on September 24, 1977, in his final match.
The PK Banerjee-coached Mariners, desperate for a comeback after East Bengal’s dominance, not only prevented the “King of Football” from scoring a goal but also nearly won 2-1 before a contentious penalty resulted in a 2-2 draw against the star -studded New York Cosmos.
Gautam Sarkar, a midfielder for Pele PK, had been given the big task of man-marking Pele and playing in the dream match of his life. He had given it all, which the legend later acknowledged. Mohun Bagan had planned an evening celebration for Pele at which he would receive a diamond ring.
However, the “Black Pearl” was more interested in meeting the players first. Pele, surrounded by a galaxy of people.
The emerged from the barricade and gave the sixth player a hug when his name was called. I don’t want to brag about myself, but my picture is still up in the New York Cosmos club, according to a newspaper report. He was so wrecked by our play that he needed to meet the players first. Never imagined that a club team from India would play like this.
The display match could see the illumination of the day in view of the drive of Dhiren Dey, a worshiped football chairman in Kolkata Maidan, then in charge of Mohun Bagan as the overall secretary. When Dhirenda informed us that Pele would play against us, it seemed unbelievable. Mohun Bagan had made a point and preparations began three weeks in advance.
One of the reasons I moved from East Bengal to Mohun Bagan was the chance to play Pele. “As it happened, it changed the fortune of our club,” said Shyam Thapa, who is famous for giving Mohun Bagan the lead. Mohun Bagan was scheduled to play East Bengal in the highly anticipated IFA Shield final four days later. As it turned out, the Mariners won 1-0, snapping their rivals’ winning streak.
It provided us with an opportunity to reclaim our fortune the outcome gave us much-required certainty to point toward the East Bengal.
Subrata Bhattacharya, a well-known Mohun Bagan defender, recalled, “We found our mojo back.
They won the Rovers Cup and the Durand Cup, continuing their revival.
In the field, we wanted to give everything. Prasun Banerjee, a former Mohun Bagan midfield who is now a TMC member of Parliament, stated.
A free kick from the top of the box was Pele’s best chance to score. Before being saved by a diving Shibaji Banerjee, the ball rose and spun in toward the left upright.
Seven years ago, during the festival of Durga Puja, Pele returned to the city, this time with a walking stick. However, his aura had captivated everyone, including Sourav Ganguly, the city’s cricket icon and self-proclaimed Brazil fan.
I’ve participated in three World Cups. Being a winner is very different from being a runner-up. During the celebration at the Netaji Indoor Stadium, Ganguly exclaimed in awe of the great man, “To hold that World Cup and a few Golden Boots must be phenomenal.
Pele also got back together with the 1977 Mohun Bagan class, which included the legendary PK, Subhash Bhowmick, and Shibaji Banerjee, all of whom have since passed away.
When someone in the audience asked the King of Football if there could be another Pele, he laughed and kept his sense of humor intact.