Pele:One of sports greatest,helping to uplift African's image globally

24Dec 2022
Michael Eneza
DAR ES SALAAM
The Guardian
Pele:One of sports greatest,helping to uplift African's image globally

AS Argentina’s captain and world superstar Lionel Messi was adding the World Cup trophy in his third and final tournament, the health condition of his often compared Brazilian world legend Pele was worsening.

Edson Arantes do Nascimento was still well enough to salute Messi in his enthusiastic and exquisite achievement on the world stage.

Once that activity was fully accomplished, the health graph of the Brazilian legend, with three World Cup trophies under his belt, rapidly lost pulse.

Pele lifted his first World Cup trophy in 1958 in Sweden, scoring in the final match at the age of 17, which so far has few comparisons if one notes that the best young player in the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar was EnzoFernandes of Argentina, aged 21.

French superstar KylianMbappe bagged the World Cup trophy in 2018 at the age of 19, which has airs of distantly comparing with Pele, and this year won the golden boot award as the highest scorer in the tournament. Still he was hugely sad at the results.

On the last minutes of additional time on the 2022 World Cup final match, a massed defense had one defender sweeping the ball from his feet when he had beaten two others, and was on the verge of scoring, doing one better than Messi and Alvares, or Neymar and other artistic forwards on the Brazil line up.

A CCN report on February 16, 2022 said of KylianMbappe scoring a wonderful last-minute goal to inspire Paris Saint-Germain to a 1-0 victory against Real Madrid in their UEFA Champions League last 16 first leg tie.

Pele wasn’t to see a black player take stage as world’s best in this final stage of his life but saw Eusebio (of his own era), Romario, Ronaldinho Gaucho, who was red-carpeted as he arrived in Qatar, and there is ViniciusJr at present.

While people talk of Pele, or for that matter, Messi or Mbappe as individuals, there is a thread that unites Pele and other great black sportsmen (leaving women aside for a moment, doing great things in tennis and athletics).

The major heritage line of reclaiming the dignity of black people via sports on the world stage can rapidly be stretched out as starting with Jesse Owens of the United States in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Winning four gold medals in sprint events, he brought legendary white supremacist chancellor Adolf Hitler to storm out of the stadium, to avoid shaking his hand in congratulation.

Theories of Aryan superiority lay dead, there and then.

From Owens there is the interlude of war and cessation of World Cup competition until 1950, and eight years later Pele took the world stage at 17.

He was part of a brilliant crop of dazzling footballers mesmerizing soccer enthusiasts around the world for decades, and even today, Brazil is arguably the world’s most talented or say, individually skilled side, but is outsmarted in organization and precision, for instance Germany thrashing Brazil 7-1 at Belo Horizonte in the 2014 World Cup semi-final.

He was part of a brilliant crop of dazzling footballers mesmerizing soccer enthusiasts around the world for decades, and even today, Brazil is arguably the world’s most talented or say, individually skilled side, but is outsmarted in organization and precision, for instance Germany thrashing Brazil 7-1 at Belo Horizonte in the 2014 World Cup semi-final.

In the UEFA circuit, with scores of top Brazilian players for Barcelona, the side was once smashed 8-0 by Bayern Munich, with experts predicting a rout.

Pele and his Brazilian teammates dazzled world football when it was still in early stages, the revolution starting after it lifted the Jules Rimet Cup for the third time in 1970, whereupon managers in the UEFA circuit started looking for answers.

The result was ‘total football’ innovation of ‘all in defense and all in attack,’ doing the trick in 1974 as Germany and the Netherlands took center stage, ahead of the still glittering Brazilian national side. By that time Pele, Garrincha especially, had left.

The other personality to add to the dignity of black people at the world stage was US heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali.

In the early 1960s and then in the 1970s Ali dominated media hype on world boxing, rather than the ring itself, despite his stinging successes and communicative epithets captivating much of the world and riling others.

Some of his household epithets was his boxing style that he described as ‘stinging like a bee and dancing like a butterfly,’ which was innocuous enough, then in 1976, taunting Joe Frazier in a return title fight in the Philippine capital of Manila, he memorably said ‘it will be a thriller, killer and chiller when I meet the gorilla in Manila’.

Having lost his title for refusing the draft to fight in Vietnam in 1967 and thereafter he was largely shielded from accusations of racism or bits of it.

Ali became a champion of two more causes far removed from sport, namely the global opposition to the Vietnam War, and then raising the banner of Islam for his anti-war concerns.

A write up of September 13, last year said that when Ali arrived to be inducted in the United States Armed Forces, however, he refused, citing his religion forbade him from serving.

The cost for his refusal would prove to be drastic, the stripping of his heavyweight title, a suspension from boxing, a $10,000 fine, and a five-year prison sentence.’ Unquestionably the stuff heroes are made of.

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