“The destiny of one’s life is entire of God’s.” – Cyril C. Nwokeji
“God gives success, we can only make an effort as humans.”- Cyril C. Nwokeji
“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years” – Abraham Lincoln
The death of Pele, some days ago didn’t come completely as a surprise, to those who followed the news of his health condition, in the last days of his life. Nature as it were, gave Pele and his family ample notice to make the necessary preparations for his passing. And they took maximal advantage of it. May his soul find rest in the Lord’s bosom! Amen!
One controversy that lingered right up to the passing of two of the best soccer players ever: Pele and Maradona, was, who was the greater/ greatest player?
Some soccer schools of thought think it was Pele; others, though in the minority, gave it to Maradona. From the title of this piece, one sees which side of the aisle yours sincerely belongs.
My thinking is informed by the general assessment of both players: their individual talents, their contributions and their achievements with the teams they played for, their contributions to soccer development generally and their persona.
With regards to talent, in my considered opinion, Pele was not more talented than Maradona. But when the other factors are taken into consideration, Pele gets the nod in my considered opinion.
Pele was highly talented, one of the most highly talented players ever to have kicked the round leather ball.
Pele was a highly disciplined soccer player. According to my Brazillian neighbour and friend, he was always the first to come to training and the last player to leave the training pitch. He achieved an immeasurable lot with his club, Santos FC of Brazil! He is actually to date, the only soccer player ever to have won the FIFA soccer world cup three times!!!! A record that considering the evolution of soccer nowadays, would be difficult to equal, talkless of surpassing!
Pele helped develop/ popularise soccer in North America, in the seventies, when he signed and played for the New York Cosmos.
Off the field, he was a gentleman per excellence. An affable/ lovable personality, who lived an exemplary life that gave and still gives credit to the game of soccer and it’s principal actors, the soccer players!
Soccer players were hitherto seen as charlatans, never-do-wells or drop-outs, who bestrode the pitch to give expression to their hitherto unanalyzed, recalcitrant/ anti-social /unwanted behavioural tendencies!
Pele’s persona helped rejig/reshape this hitherto unenviable/unwanted image of soccer players.
He was by far the best public relations product of the round leather game thus far. And maybe will ever be!
As a young boy of thirteen, one remembers his trip/playing tour with a Brazilian club side to Nigeria in 1978. They played two matches in Nigeria, in Lagos and in Kaduna.
In the Lagos match played in a full capacity National stadium Suru-Lere, they played against an “NFA selected side”, that comprised some of the then best Nigeria players. One notable member of that squad that one still remembers is Sunny Oyarekua- then police officer soccer star. He was conspicuous in the match, by hitting the crossbar of the Brazillian team with a volley, that would have been credited as a world goal if it had gone in!
In that match, Pele played forty-five minutes each with both sides.
In the second match played at the Ahmadu Bello stadium, Kaduna, Pele’s Brazillian team, played against a Kaduna-selected team. One remembers Felix Owolabi, then a member of the Super Eagles, playing for the home team. One remembers he had the ‘unenviable’ task of marking out Pele when Pele played against his team!
Like in the Lagos match, the stadium was filled to capacity, and Pele played one-half each for both sides.
Following Life’s dictates, Pele has gone the way of all mortals: he has died! But he left indelible footprints in the sands of time! He will forever be remembered as one of the greatest nay greatest soccer players ever!
Once again, may his soul find rest in the Lord’s bosom! Amen !!!!!!!
By Cyril C. Nwokeji, the author of the book: “Super Eagles of Nigeria: Pride of Africa”, presently on sale on www. Amazon.com
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