Pele, No More: AIFF Declares Seven-Day Mourning To Pay Tribute To Brazilian Football ‘King’
Pele has played in India back in 1977 when the Brazilian turned out for New York Cosmos against Mohun Bagan in a 2-2 draw at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
New Delhi: In the memory of legendary Brazilian footballer, Pele, who died at the age of 82 on Thursday after a long battle with cancer, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has declared a seven-day mourning to play tribute to the life and achievements of the ‘The King’.
Pele had a colon tumor removed in September 2021. Neither his family nor the hospital have said whether it had spread to other organs. He returned to the Albert Einstein hospital on November 29 with COVID-19 and a respiratory infection.
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Last week, the hospital said in a statement his cancer had advanced. Pele led Brazil to World Cup victory in 1958, 1962 and 1970 and remains one of the team’s all-time leading scorers with 77 goals. Neymar tied Pele’s record during this year’s World Cup in Qatar.
“We are deeply saddened by the demise of footballing great Pele, and to remember his achievements, we will observe a seven-day mourning. In this period, the AIFF flag will fly at half-mast,” AIFF Secretary General Dr Shaji Prabhakaran said.
Pele’s connection with India dates back to 1977 when the Brazilian played for New York Cosmos against Mohun Bagan in a 2-2 draw o September 24 at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata (then Calcutta). Then at the twilight of his career, the three-time World Cup winner was overwhelmed by the depth of talent a ‘little known’ Indian club possessed.
Desperately seeking a revival after the dominance of arch-rivals East Bengal, the PK Banerjee-coached Mariners not only stopped the ‘King of Football’ from scoring a goal, but almost won 2-1 before a controversial penalty made it a 2-2 draw against the star-studded Cosmos.
Pele revisited the Kolkata seven years back during the festive season of Durga Puja, this time with a walking stick but his aura had left everyone mesmerised, including the city’s cricket icon Sourav Ganguly, a self-proclaimed Brazil fan.
Pele also reunited with the Mohun Bagan batch of 1977 including the legendary PK, Subhash Bhowmick and Shibaji Banerjee who are no more. “I accepted to come here in India because I love the people here,” Pele said.
The King of Football also had his sense of humour intact and gave a cheeky reply when someone in the dias asked him if there could be another Pele.
“Listen, I’m sorry. My father and my mother closed the machine. There will be no other Pele.” His last words before signing off were: “If I can help someway, I’ll be here again.” He once again visited India in 2018.
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