Pele today left everyone mesmerised in an evening that had moments of nostalgia, the great debate on Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, even as the ‘King of Football’ from Brazil declared that he was willing to help Indian football in some way.
Pele said that his Argentine rival Maradona was a more complete player than Messi as he interacted with former India cricket captain Sourav Ganguly, Oscar winning musician A R Rahman and members of the 1977 Mohun Bagan team against whom he had played in an exhibition match in 1977.
“If I can help some way, I’ll be here. No problem,” he said, replying to the captain of the then Mohun Bagan team Subrata Bhattacharya during a glittering evening titled the ‘Legends Tour of India’.On India’s slip in standard of football, he drew parallel with Brazil hosting the 1950 World Cup at home.
“Today, Brazil have excellent reputation but it was not in 1950. Brazil lost the World Cup at home and everyone kept criticising. You need to have patience. you need to get experience. India have excellent opportunity to grow in football. You need more exchange of experience. You have a lot of talents. It will take a little time,” Pele added.
Pele came on the stage with a walking stick and was given a standing ovation by the 1000-odd audience. “I accepted to come here in India because I love the people here. I played 25 years with Brazil and Santos and then five years with New York Cosmos. The surgery was done only recently when I stopped playing,” he said.
Pele had three surgeries this year but despite that he’s touring the world, spreading the message of peace through football.
“Thank you God to give me this moment. I thank everyone who made this possible. People have worked very hard to give me this opportunity. Some of the people present here I know were not born when I had come here 38 years ago. Now, I’m glad to be back here with the new generation,” he said.