Pele makes nostalgic return to Kolkata

The first time he set foot in the city he was the superstar of world football, 38 years later he returns as the greatest player of all time. ‘Pele, Pele, Pele’ the chants rent the air once again as the Brazilian legend, the owner of three football World Cup titles, honoured the rendezvous with the passionate fans arriving at around 9 a.m. on Sunday.

Legendary football player Pele arrives at the NSCBI Airport in Kolkata on Sunday.   -  PTI

The first time he set foot in the city he was the superstar of world football, 38 years later he returns as the greatest player of all time. ‘Pele, Pele, Pele’ the chants rent the air once again as the Brazilian legend, the owner of three football World Cup titles, honoured the rendezvous with the passionate fans arriving at around 9 a.m. on Sunday.

Receiving him at the airport was a big crowd and one of the key ministers of State Government, Firhad (Boby) Hakim, who led the Brazilian legend on a passenger cart from the terminal. Pele walked into the waiting crowd and waived at it to loud cheers and got on to a waiting car, which took him to a five-star hotel. Reaching the hotel, Edson Arantes do Nascimento ‘Pele’ was received by one of one of his contemporaries, Subimal (Chuni) Goswami, whom the city calls its own legend. The two greeted each other with the customary hug and the smile to set up the symbolic start to the three-day visit to the city.

For the record, Pele last came to the city in 1977 with the touring New York Cosmos team and played an exhibition match against Mohun Bagan to a packed Eden Gardens Stadium on September 24. The match ended 2-2 and since then Pele is one of the football’s biggest icons that city prefers to identify with. The man, who inspired Brazil to become the most successful football nation of the world by helping it win the first three of its five World Cup crowns, has reignited the craze that gives Kolkata the premium place in the footballing map of India.

The 74-year-old legend will be resting on Sunday before beginning his tour by addressing a press conference on Monday, organised by the city’s ISL franchise, Atletico de Kolkata. Later in the day, he will interact with the students of NSHM institute, one of the sponsors of his trip. The feature event of the day will be in the evening where he will felicitate players of the Mohun Bagan team he played against in 1977. He will then participate in a chat show with the city’s cricket icon, the former India captain Sourav Ganguly.

According to the organisers, music director A.R. Rahman is also expected to be present at the event while Rafael Nadal will also join through a video conference. On Tuesday, Pele will be meeting the Atletico de Kolkata players before watching their ISL outing against Kerala Blasters.