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Pele had been treated for colon cancer, following surgery to remove a tumour in September 2021, and had required regular medical treatment. Days before the start of the World Cup held in Qatar, the Brazil icon was in the news as the world was informed of his admission into the intensive care unit. Sadly, the soccer genius did not survive the ordeal as he passed away at the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo. As the world reflects on the life and times of Pele, Nigeria is fortunate to have somewhere in her historical documentaries where the record of Pele is stored and can be retrieved and replayed or reread over and over again for generations to come.
How does Nigeria remember Pele?It all goes down to January 1969 – a friendly match between the Nigerian national team known then as Green Eagles and the Brazilian club Santos held in Surulere. This was in the heat of the Nigerian-Biafran War (1967-70) In January 1969, during the conflict, the legend, whose full name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento, travelled to Nigeria with his Brazilian club Santos to play friendlies with the Green Eagles.
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The friendly match between the Brazilian national team and the Nigerian national team (Green Eagles), played in Lagos, was a highly anticipated and publicized event. Santos, led by legendary player Pele, was known for its strong offensive play and fluid attacking style, while the Nigerian team was considered a formidable and physical opponent. The match itself was played at the National Stadium in Lagos and was attended by a large and enthusiastic crowd. The Brazilian team dominated the game from the start, with Pele scoring two goals in the first half to give his team a 2-0 lead. However, reports noted that the Green Eagles were able to equalize, which made the match end in a 2-2 draw. Yet again, Pele was able to honour the nation by playing another match in Benin in the Old Bendel State, right during the civil war. According to reports, hostilities were halted in order to watch the great Pele play. According to Santos’ official website, the then state Military Governor Samuel Ogbemudia declared a public holiday and opened up the bridge that connected Benin with Biafra. Both primary and secondary sources of historical inquiry confirmed that about 25,000 fans trooped into the stadium to watch the historic match where Pele led his team to a 2-1 win over Nigeria. Pele’s performance in the match was particularly noteworthy, as he demonstrated his exceptional ball control, passing ability, and finishing skills. His goals were met with rapturous applause from the crowd and served as a reminder of his status as one of the greatest players of all time.
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In addition to Pele’s standout performance, the match also featured a number of other memorable moments, including a stunning, save from the Brazilian goalkeeper and a number of impressive attacking moves by both teams. Overall, the match was an entertaining and competitive showcase of soccer talent and served as a testament to the skill and dedication of both the Brazilian and Nigerian teams. While the outcome of the match may not have been what the Nigerian fans had wanted, the match itself was an unforgettable experience for all involved. It provided an opportunity for the players to showcase their abilities on the international stage, and for fans to witness some of the best soccer talents in the world. The matches in Lagos and Benin will always be remembered as a highlight of Pele’s career, and a testament to the enduring appeal of football as a global sport. And depending on who you ask, Nigeria is one of the luckiest nations to have Pele play on her soil. Featured Image Source: PM News NG
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