He’s gone! The greatest footballer in the history of the game is no more. Pele passed away – at the age of 81 – over the Christmas Holidays, after many had hoped that Brazil would’ve brought back this year’s World Cup. They didn’t, and the man who’d placed Brazil on the top of the football world for decades, who of recent had been hospitalised with cancer, didn’t get the parting gift that would’ve been so fitting!
Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento in a poverty-stricken home, he received the nickname Pele at a very young age when he persistently mispronounced the name of his favourite player, local Vasco da Gama goalkeeper Bilé. Nowadays it’s difficult for the young’uns to appreciate the impact Pele had on global football; after all, he retired more than fifty years ago!! So, let’s just mention some stark facts: He was a mere 17 years old when he starred in the Brazilian team that won the World Cup in 1958 – their first!! With him breaking all sorts of records in that feat, it took another fifty years for Neymar to match his scoring record for his country. He went on to be on teams that won two more World Cups by 1970, and remains the only player to have to his name the credit of winning 3 World Cups!!
Pele was the first global superstar, and it paved the way for the present billionaire players. There are so many stories about him that illustrate his impact, but none more so than the fact that a civil war in Nigeria – in which a million lives were taken – was halted when he visited in 1969!! Both sides wanted to see him in the flesh!!
When the US decided they’d enter the world of soccer, the NY Cosmos signed the retired Pele in 1975 for the highest contract for an athlete at the time – US$2.8M annually!! And he was invited to the White House to meet another global icon – boxing’s Muhammad Ali!!
Pele didn’t make the fortune he left at his death from football salaries, but through endorsements. And he was very selective about what he put his name to. He said, “I earned money from advertising when I stopped playing, but none from tobacco, alcohol, politics, or religion.” This was a man who understood his social obligations to the poverty out of which he had pulled himself!
One of the earliest marketing coups in sporting history occurred during an Adidas-sponsored 1970 World Cup. Puma – the arch-rival of Adidas – paid Pele to tie his shoelaces just before the final kickoff, so that the cameras could zoom in on his Puma boots!!
The Italian poet and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini gave him the best accolade: “The moment the ball arrived at Pele’s feet football was transformed into poetry”!!
When the PPP finally took office – after the PNC’s 5-month illegal squatting on the Government’s treasury! – they emphasised they were gonna fulfill their manifesto promise of distributing 50,000 house lots. This, of course, was based on the basic premise that a house isn’t just a shelter, but, in the modern world, is the beginning of the accumulation of intergenerational assets. Wealth, baby…wealth!! And you can’t have a house unless you have a place to build it on – a house lot!!
Of course, critics will point out that a house lot doesn’t guarantee a house, but the Government immediately unfolded a menu of measures to make that eventuality more certain – getting banks and mortgage institutions to lower mortgage rates; lowering acceptance criteria; providing cement and steel rods for the poor; and even donating some houses to the said poor gratis!!
Anyhow, the Govt has already given out 20,000 house lots; and on only the ECD of Reg 4, 5000 lots were given out as $10 billion was allocated for infrastructural works!!
The headline read “Trinidad reaches 600 murders”!! So that’s where we’ve arrived?? Boasting about how many murders were committed?? Ok…OK…your Eyewitness understands that’s not what was meant; but Rowley’s “Day of Prayers” ain’t gonna help reduce it.