Pelé had the world at his feet, but the Brazilians never really liked him

Pelé does a Chilean during a friendly match against the Belgian team in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), in 1968.PA

Pelé is the compensation that God gave our country for not having, until now, a Nobel Prize. Pele he invented the idea of ​​Brazil in the imagination of the entire planet. The footballer was chosen Athlete of the Century by the French newspaper L’Equipe in 1980. Andy Warhol, the pop artist who predicted instant glory for 15 seconds for all mortals, said of him: “Pele will be famous for 15 centuries.” The player secured a ceasefire in 1969 during the Nigerian civil war so that Africans could see him play for Santos Football Club. Pelé had the world at his feet, but the Brazilians never really liked him. Even in the hospital bed, oh king He was trampled on social networks. Most of his detractors remembered that he rejected the paternity of his daughter, Sandra Regina Machado, in 1991; Others remembered his unfortunate political phrases: “The Brazilian people are not ready to vote,” he said in the 1970s, during the dictatorship; and there were also those who criticized him for his absence in the anti-racist fight.

Even when we weren’t even able to imagine the mass hysteria on Twitter or Facebook, the footballer never reigned in peace. In the 1990s, another great Brazilian had to come out in defense of the number 10. “Pelé is one less world unanimity in Brazil. Here he is not good,” he said. Tom Jobim, an artist who was also more admired abroad than in his country. The bossa nova master tried to explain this national phenomenon in another of his unforgettable phrases: “Success in Brazil is a personal offense.”

During the first week of December 2022, when the country was following the medical bulletins about the former athlete’s fragile health, the rapper emicide he conversed with Tom’s thought. “For those who have dark skin, success is an unclean crime,” the musician maintained. “Pele dared to be king in the most racist country in the world.”

Despite his statements, the greatest Brazilian of all time proudly said: “I never took off my color to play.” In his view, being black and reigning in sports was in itself a flag. Pelé insisted on remembering how the South African Bishop Desmond Tutu thanked him during a meeting in the 1980s: “He squeezed my hand and told me that he had done a lot for the black race.”

Rio de Janeiro deputy Benedita da Silva, from the President-elect’s Workers’ Party Lula da Silva, joins the opinions of the bishop who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his fight against apartheid in his country: “It is the most promising image of a poor black child,” he said in a statement for the documentary Pele (Netflix).

The first person who perceived, in that March of 1958, that he was in front of an extraordinary Brazilian was the chronicler and playwright Nelson Rodrigues, our tropical Shakespeare. The crack was barely 17 years old and was branded as a king in a pioneering way, 12 years before winning the three-time Copa de México championship with the Brazilian team. The prophetic article was published in the Manchete Esportiva magazine.

Pelé can only be compared in national greatness with another black man, the greatest writer on this earth, Machado de Assis (1839-1908), number 10 in Brazilian literature, the guy who wrote the classic Posthumous memoirs of Blas Cubas, a book in which a deceased-author (or a deceased-author) reflects on his melancholic and petty life.

Relentlessly marked on the field, either by defender Waldemar Carabina from the tropics (Palmeiras de São Paulo) or by Bobby Moore (England), Pelé did not imagine that, many times, his greatest historical adversary would be the Brazilian medium (from the corner tavern or from social networks) who loves to hate him.

In time, we may meet again to chat, Tom Jobim, Emicida and Benedita da Silva. Who knows, maybe no thesis will come out of that meeting. Only the idea that we don’t have a Nobel, it’s true, but habemus Pelé, our own Cervanteswho invented a new novel idea on the hallowed fields of football.

You can follow EL PAÍS Sports on Facebook Y Twitteror sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.

Subscribe to continue reading

Read without limits

We would like to give thanks to the writer of this short article for this awesome web content

Pelé had the world at his feet, but the Brazilians never really liked him