As a young football fan born in the ancient city of Ibadan, Oyo State Southwest of Nigeria, I was introduced to the beautiful game (a phrase credited to Pele) by my Dad who took me to watch matches of IICC Shooting Stars of Ibadan and fell in love with my first football Icon – “Mathematical” Segun Odegbami.
I vaguely remember in one of several football conversations talking about players and it ended around who was the best player. He stated that I need to watch a documentary of the greatest footballer ever. I was a bit puzzled. In my small mind back then there was someone better than mathematical? Dad brought home a Betamax video compilation of Pele which included his heroics at the 4 world cups (he got injured in the 1966 World Cup in which Brazil got knocked out).
I was simply blown away at the story of Pele. His football artistry was simply breath-taking. My love for the beautiful game was signed, sealed and delivered. A young boy that conquered the World at barely 17 years of age in 1958.
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As I grew older, I read books and articles on the great Brazilian that was later to be declared a national treasure and watched several documentaries on the greatest individual to have played the beautiful game. Simply a joy for a man to have shared his talent with the world.
Pele was the first global sporting icon that his influence was far and beyond the game of football. There are those who continue to debate on who is the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) footballer and without a single iota of doubt in my mind Pele was an enigma and for me the greatest ever to have played the beautiful game.
Personally, the 1970 Brazilian side remains my best World Cup team of all time – they were simply magnificent with Pele the leading the Seleção orchestra. He was the pivot of the five attacking momentum of Jairzinho, Gerson, Tostão and Rivelino that was unstoppable and a joy to behold.
I dedicate this poem to him.
Pelé o melhor
In 1940 a gem from God was born in Três Corações, Minas Gerais
In 1958 a hat trick was scored, a brace in the final, at 17 became the youngest player to win a World Cup
In 1962 assisted and scored a goal then got injured but won the World Cup
In 1966 scored the first goal from a free kick becoming the first player to score in three world cups but was cut short with injury
In 1970 year of his crowning glory, Pelé won his third World Cup only player with such a record
Blessed with the gift of football artistry
He reigned supreme with the World as his feet
Pele was his name
For he had a heart of
And won with love many to the beautiful game
O rei legado
Bimboh Adekoya is a widely travelled football person. He lives in Lagos, Nigeria. Twitter @Bimboh5