The king

Re­call­ing a clas­sic Pele dis­play

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - CONTENTS -

tHE pre-sea­son trans­fer of Neymar from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Ger­main for the price of a medium sized planet prompted me to look back at a per­for­mance from an­other San­tos old boy that was rated by every­one who saw it as out of this world.

The player in ques­tion was, of course, Pelé, the then emerg­ing star of world foot­ball.

It was San­tos’ golden ju­bilee in 1962 and, as if to em­pha­sise the point, the club set about vo­ra­ciously claim­ing sil­ver­ware.

The club had put to­gether a team with all the right com­po­nents. They had an as­sured goal­keeper, Gyl­mar (who went on to win 94 caps); a solid, no-non­sense de­fence; their cap­tain was Brazil’s silky-smooth play­maker, Zito, with his Zorro-like mous­tache, who would slice open op­pos­ing de­fences as if at will; and up front they had the swash­buck­ling duo of Pelé and Coutinho, the guy they called ‘Pelé’s twin’ (which sug­gests he might have been half de­cent).

The 1961-62 sea­son had seen the club re­tain their Brazil­ian re­gional league ti­tle. Added to this came the Brazil­ian Cup and, with a vic­tory over Pe­narol of Uruguay, the Copa Lib­er­ta­dores, South Amer­ica’s premier club com­pe­ti­tion. This saw San­tos claim an un­prece­dented tre­ble. But they were by no means fin­ished. By beat­ing Pe­narol over three in­ci­dent packed matches, San­tos also qual­i­fied for a tilt at the In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Cup; which, in ef­fect, meant the world club cham­pi­onship. Their op­po­nents for the (un­of­fi­cial) world club ti­tle were to be the Por­tuguese cham­pi­ons, Ben­fica, who had re­cently con­quered the mighty Real Madrid 5-3 to be crowned cham­pi­ons of Europe (Ben­fica had also been the pre­vi­ous year’s world club run­ners-up to Pe­narol). They also had the new star of Euro­pean foot­ball, Euse­bio (who was ac­tu­ally born in Africa, in Mozam­bique). In the first leg, played be­fore a crowd of 85,459 at the gi­nor­mous Mara­cana Sta­dium in Rio de Janeiro, Ben­fica played a typ­i­cal Euro­pean away tie, by de­fend­ing in depth and play­ing on the break. De­spite such tac­tics, San­tos still man­aged a nar­row 3-2 win, with Pelé scor­ing two and his ‘twin’ adding the other. It was gen­er­ally be­lieved, though, that a third match would even­tu­ally be nec­es­sary as ag­gre­gate scores didn’t count. Ben­fica were fan­cied to take ad­van­tage on home soil, es­pe­cially as their in­jured star goal­keeper Costa Pereira was ex­pected to re­turn for the sec­ond-leg, so pro­vi­sional plans were put in place for a play-off in Paris.

But such ar­range­ments were soon kissed au revoir as Pelé put on what is widely re­garded as his greatest ever per­for­mance. Lis­bon’s Sta­dium of Light had never been quite so il­lu­mi­nated.

In an as­ton­ish­ing match, San­tos won the sec­ond leg 5-2. The 21-year-old Pelé scored a su­perb hat-trick, set up the other two and, for good mea­sure, put on an ar­ray of ball skills which have prob­a­bly never been bet­tered.

Ben­fica’s two late goals only came once San­tos were coast­ing at 5-0. That’s FIVE-NIL. Away from home. Against the cham­pi­ons of Europe.

I used to own a video tape (re­mem­ber them?) ti­tled Pelé O Rey whose best se­quence was a mon­tage of high­lights from this par­tic­u­lar game and, when watch­ing the grainy black and white footage, one was struck by how when Pelé was on the ball, it’s as if his play had been speeded up com­pared to that of the play­ers around him. He was sim­ply elec­tric. (Pelé was also un­mis­tak­ably two-footed, which can’t al­ways be said about some of the play­ers that he oc­ca­sion­ally gets com­pared to.)

At the fi­nal whis­tle, spec­ta­tors poured onto the pitch and, in a rare in­stance (unique even?) of it hap­pen­ing to an away team player, Pelé was car­ried from the pitch as the ca­pac­ity 73,000 crowd hailed: “Pelé, O Rey, Pelé, O Rey, Pelé, O Rey… (Pelé the King, Pelé the King).”

So, you can ig­nore (if you wish) Pelé’s muchad­mired per­for­mances from the 1970 World Cup in Mex­ico. When it comes to recog­nis­ing his best-ever game, look no fur­ther than this.

Un­stop­pable: Pele cel­e­brates scor­ing for Brazil in the 1970 World Cup fi­nal against Italy Move: PSG’s Neymar

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