New Delhi: It’s time for the ‘sleeping giant’ to wake up from its slumber as the King of football Pele will grace India in October, adding to the festive mood in the country that hosted him 38 years ago. Widely regarded as the greatest footballer to have played the game, Edson Arantes do Nascimento will be in the capital on October as a special ambassador at the 56th edition of Subroto Cup 2015 final match.
The last time the 74-year-old Brazilian was in the country was way back in 1977 with New York Cosmos for an exhibition match with Mohun Bagan. Confirming his visit through a video message, the legend said, “I am looking forward to meeting the young footballers participating in the Subroto Cup and celebrating the world’s greatest sport with the children of India. “I am impressed with the hard work that the Indian Air Force has put in to nurture such a big football tournament that brings the youth together. I hope my visit will inspire these champions of tomorrow.”
It is being speculated that he will also be a guest of honour in Atletico de Kolkata’s opening game in Indian Super League (ISL) and meet former India cricket captain Sourav Ganguly at a function in the eastern metropolis. Nicknamed as ‘Black Pearl’, Pele has won one Ballon d’Or, three World Cups and scored a staggering 1,283 career goals.
“It is such an honour for me to be able to make thistrip. India is a very special country and I have good memories from my time there many years ago, the fans were fantastic,” Pele added.
In 1999, he was voted World Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics. In the same year, Pele was declared Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee, and Time magazine named him in their list of 100 most influential people of the 20th century. In 2013, he received the FIFA Ballon d’Or Prix d’Honneur in recognition of his career and achievements as a global icon of the world sport.
Asked if fans could expect Pele to show some of his skills with the ball, Air Vice Marshal M K Malik said, “Pele was hospitalised a few days back so we are in big doubt. “We are prepared to manage the crowd. In Kolkata there were one lakh people and now, Santos FC, where the legend played for nearly 20 years, is also joining the tournament.
“Expenditure to bring the legend that includes his travelling and lodging cost will be borne by the Indian Air Force and the committee is also working to figure it out.” Air Chief Arup Raha added, “The Indian Air Force is extremely delighted to have the presence of the legend for the first time in the national capital in his second visit to India after almost 40 years.”
The Subroto Cup will be held from September 11 to October 16 and will see participation of more than 100 school teams from India and across the world. Matches will be played in Under-14 (boys) and Under-17 (boys and girls) categories. Schools from Korea, Sweden, Brazil, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have confirmed their participation in the tournament.