When Pele Visited India to Play in Kolkata

Brazil’s football legend Pele visited India twice, once in 1977 and then in 2015. He passed away after losing the battle against cancer.

When Pele Visited India to Play in Kolkata - f

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Pele was scheduled to get a diamond ring.

Football legend Pele visited Kolkata, India in 1977 to play a friendly match with his former team New York Cosmos, against Kolkata giants, Mohun Bagan.

In a friendly game in Kolkata, spectators watched New York Cosmos, the former team of the legendary Brazilian player, compete against Mohun Bagan, a local Kolkata powerhouse.

Around 80,000 people gathered at the Eden Gardens venue in Kolkata on September 25, 1977, for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness Pele’s great talent

In the 30 minutes he was on the field against Mohun Bagan, who unexpectedly grabbed the lead to go up 2-0 as early as the 33rd minute, Pele failed to score a goal.

However, the New York Cosmos, who also had world champions Carlos Alberto of Brazil and Giorgio Chinaglia of Italy, tied the game at 2-2 to force a draw.

Novy Kapadia, a historian, described this significant moment in Indian history in his book ‘Barefoot to Boots’.

According to Novy Kapadia, numerous people gathered in front of Pele’s hotel before he arrived at the famous football stadium.

After the game, Mohun Bagan had planned a ceremony to honour Pele.

Pele was scheduled to get a diamond ring after playing the second-to-last game of his career.

However, the renowned footballer was more eager to speak, and connect with the Mohun Bagan team, led by the famous PK Banerjee.

The three-time World Cup champion and midfielder Gautam Sarkar remembers the praise Pele gave to him on the day.

Sarkar recalled: “Sporting a weary smile he told me, ‘So, you are that number 14 who did not allow me to move…’ I was left awe-struck.

“He was so overwhelmed by our play that he wanted to meet the players first.

“Never thought a club team from a country like India would play like this.”

On December 29, 2022, Pele passed away at the age of 82 in the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo following a protracted fight with cancer.

Pele had treatment for colon cancer after having a tumour surgically removed in September 2021.

The global governing body of football, FIFA, credits Pele with 1281 goals, including 12 goals at the World Cup.

In 2015, Pele visited India once more for the Subroto Cup and mesmerised people like Sourav Ganguly, Mamata Banerjee, and AR Rahman.

During his travels, Pele’s affection for India was evident, and the nation will always remember the great Brazilian football player.

Ilsa is a digital marketeer and journalist. Her interests include politics, literature, religion and football. Her motto is “Give people their flowers whilst they’re still around to smell them.”