Pele aside playing football and growing to become the greatest footballer ever seen in the world, also did some remarkable things.
The story is that when Pele and company arrived in Nigeria, the guns stopped firing. During the 48-hour ceasefire between Nigeria and Biafra, Santos and the Super Eagles drew 2-2, with Pele scoring both goals and earning a standing ovation from the home crowd.
In 1967, a bloody civil war broke out in Nigeria between the federal government and the state of the Republic of Biafra, which was situated on the nation’s southern coast.
The Igbo people of Biafra wanted to separate because they believed that the federal government, which was dominated by the North, no longer represented their goals.
The war represented three years of racial and culturally motivated bloodshed and starvation in Nigeria.
Finding a common ground to stop such crimes was a difficult assignment in a country with more than 60 million inhabitants who belong to more than 300 different ethnic and cultural groupings. That was the situation of things until Pele arrived in the country.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known by his stage name Pelé, was a forward for the Brazilian national team. He was among the most accomplished and well-known athletes of the 20th century, and FIFA even named him “the greatest” player of all time.
The Brazilian, who is credited with coining the term “beautiful sport,” was the face of that category in 1967. He had already brought Brazil two World Cup titles and was well on his way to a third.
Santos made the decision to go on a world tour as a result of his immense popularity because he knew that every football fan in the world would be awestruck to see him play.
Their trip stopped in Africa in January 1967, with matches scheduled in Nigeria, Ghana, Algeria, The Congo, and Mozambique.
The two warring factions in Nigeria decided that a 48 hour ceasefire was necessary when Santos arrived in Nigeria on January 26 of 1967 for their match against the Nigerian National Team, also known as the Green Eagles.
Additionally, the military personnel from opposing sides lined up beside one other, weapons in hand, encircling the Lagos City Stadium in order to ensure the safety of everyone in the audience, regardless of ethnicity or political affiliation.
In other words, everyone who came to watch this game was there to enjoy 90 minutes of gorgeous football with both friends and complete strangers.
In the stadium, there was no fighting, no arrests were made, just a group of devoted football fans.
Pele scored two goals for Santos, both of which were welcomed with cheers from the crowd, and the game finished in a tie.
The Nigerian government and the Biafran army started fighting again shortly after Santos left for their next match.
However, it was Pele and his mastery of the “beautiful game” that had brought together individuals from many origins and mindsets, if only for a brief period of time, offering them a taste of serenity and companionships in an otherwise grim and gloomy time in history.
A healthy lifestyle, self-confidence, and friendships can all be cultivated through playing football.
But it also has the power to persuade troops to lay down their weapons and join forces with perceived enemies in honor of an athletic artist who served as a reminder that beauty endures despite adversity.
None of the aforementioned can put an end to one of football’s oldest arguments. That will always be the case.
However, it does give some of the more glib arguments against the claims of the man who is still widely known as O Rei – The King.
If you must, prefer others, but there is no need to disparage Edson Arantes Do Nascimento’s enormous accomplishments.