I hardly complain about racism, particularly in sports, because I rarely believe it exists. To me, when you put enough effort to excel in whatever you do, nobody can stop you. Nobody did stop Usain Bolt because he was just exceptional. Mohammed Ali, Larry Holmes, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, et al were exceptional black boxers that no white skin could stop.
But having taken a deeper look at how FIFA have recently treated Edson Arantes Do Nascimento, Pele, it dawned on me that racism in this field is very real, especially when meted out to a man who is helpless to intervene.
Pele had hung his precious boots nearly five decades ago. He had astonishing records, particularly in goal-scoring that it’s been practically impossible for any other human being to match, let alone surpass.
In his career, the Brazilian demi-god scored a total of 1,281 goals out of which 1,091 goals were scored while wearing Santos FC colours.
In his playing days, there were great white players including his Brazilian teammates, Tostao, Revelino, Gerson… and few others while the likes of Franz Beckanbeur, Gerd Muller, Johan Cruff, Goerge Best, Ferenc Puskas, etc equally prowled within the European arena, but none truly got to Pele’s immaculate level.
It wasn’t until Diego Maradona came along that the nearest to the Brazilian magician took over playing pitches as another demi-god. From that moment, signs of racism started emanating. The debate sprang up in an attempt to name the better player between the two South Americans. Take nothing away from Maradona, he was exceptional but Pele’s numbers completely dwarfed the Argentine’s. Tried as they did to crown Maradona the Greatest Of All Time, GOAT, Pele’s goal numbers refused to budge.
But somewhere along the line, two greats surfaced at same time. In names of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, the football world beheld two geniuses at same generation where usually one was enough for any generation. Instead of enjoying these gifts from God, man being himself, went into excessive comparison and stoked up unnecessary rivalry.
But it didn’t stop there. It appeared those trying to eclipse Pele as GOAT saw an opportunity. The rivalry created a fan base for each that the debate became far fiercer than the actions on football pitches. An inevitable hate from either divide trailed with the social media providing the perfect platform for both opposing fans to spew what ordinarily should have been unprintable.
Having manipulated the world’s football fans to this degree, the surreptitious manipulators went for the kill. With either divide claiming that their idol is indeed the GOAT, the unseen hands went into removing the only obstacle that still stands in the way of either laying claim to that ultimate crown.
Pele’s goal numbers had to be reduced! They went to work, induced FIFA, who evidently were willing tools. Fiam, nearly Pele’s 500 goals scored in full capacity stadia all over the world got chalked off as goals from unserious games. Why? Because they were scored in mostly club friendly games. They knew that once that was done, both Messi and Ronaldo would overtake the real GOAT’s ever intimidating numbers. And that is exactly where we are today.
Question is – what were unserious in those games?
I took time to research and decided to quote from ANDREW CESARE RICHARDSON, a British writer, working for ESPN…
“In 1961, Santos were the only foreign team invited to a tournament to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Italy’s unification,” Odir Cunha, the renowned Santos historian, explained.
“In front of 60,000 people, they beat Juventus 2-0 in Turin. Three days later, Roma were beaten 5-0 at the Stadio Olimpico, with 80,000 fans in attendance, and three days later, Inter Milan were put to the sword 4-1 with 110,000 people watching. Pele scored four goals across these matches. Inter would go on to become one of Europe’s best sides, winning back-to-back European Cups just three years later — Pele would score a total of 11 goals against them in their meetings, with one match finishing 7-1 in favour of the Brazilian side.”
“Just three days after their 7-1 win over Inter, Santos beat Barca 5-1 at Camp Nou. The following year, they went to Germany to celebrate 1860 Munich’s centenary and won 9-1 with Pele scoring three times.
“The so-called “friendlies” in which Pele scored nearly 500 goals left an indelible mark and shaped the history of some of the greatest sides in world football. It was an era before the Copa Libertadores in South America and still the infancy of the European Cup — both of which were tournaments reservedly for league winners.
“In 1959, during their first European tour, Santos played Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in front of 70,000 fans. The hosts had won three consecutive European Cups but when they prepared to face Santos, they requested the services of striker Gainza on loan from Atletico Madrid. Local journalists declared this the ‘Match Of The Century.’
“Weary, having played eight matches in two weeks [against the likes of Feyenoord, Inter Milan and Hamburg], Santos lost 5-3. Real Madrid declared they never again wanted to face Santos and even pulled out of the Buenos Aires Trophy tournament in 1965 to avoid a rematch. This was of great disappointment to Santos, who won that particular tournament. Santos goalkeeper Gylmar dos Santos Neves said at the time: ‘We wanted to hammer them, but inexplicably, they didn’t want to take part. They were afraid of losing badly.’
“In 1962, when Pele and Santos beat Sheffield Wednesday 4-2, with Pele scoring two in front of 50,000 fans, it was much more than a friendly game.”
Me: The bigger question is – how can a team that travelled different timelines to honour such high calibre matches like against Real Mardid and Barcelona with over 90,000 and 110,000 fans watching respectively been so downgraded as unserious matches?
“South America was football’s dominant force in the 1960s and 1970s. As Europe was going through a rebirth following World War II, football lovers wanted to see the best players in the world in action — primary among those was Pele’s Santos.”
“Before continental competitions were introduced, it was common for big teams to tour other countries. Were they treated as mere friendlies at the time?
“European clubs gave these encounters great importance and there is a lot of evidence for this. In 1961, having been unbeaten in 16 consecutive matches in Europe, Santos lost the last match of their tour to Greek side Olympiakos 2-1. This victory was so important to the hosts that it is written into the club’s official anthem.
“How can a mere “friendly” hold such resonance? It was far more important than some official matches.”
I just recounted from a white man, who evidently holds no bias and nowhere near a racist.
FIFA can’t be forcing teams to take knees before any kick-off in pretences about fighting racism while having carried the biggest racist coup by robbing Pele.
Goals against such mentioned clubs above are far more important than those scored in World Cup qualifiers against Luxembourg, Andora, Furore Islands, Malta and their likes.