Kolkata. In Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s classic comedy ‘Golmaal’, Utpal Dutt asks Amol Palekar about ‘Black Pearl’ Pele in an interview, and his answer is that he has heard that in Calcutta (Kolkata) about 30 to 40 thousand mad people visit him at midnight. Reached Dum Dum airport. This was a hallmark of football fans’ obsession with Pele, the wizard of football.
It is about 1977 when Pele came to Kolkata for the first time and the whole city was colored in his colour. Years before Diego Maradona’s ‘Khuda ke Haath’ and Lionel Messi’s unfulfilled dream of winning the World Cup came true, the Brazilian stalwart had made Bengal crazy about the beautiful game. Three-time World Cup winner Pele, playing for the New York Cosmos against Mohun Bagan on 24 September 1977 at a packed Eden Gardens, was impressed by the skills of the club’s players.
Mohun Bagan, worried about the increasing dominance of East Bengal, did not allow this king of football to score and almost 2. Had won the match by 1 but due to disputed penalty the score was 2. Became equal to 2. Coach PK Banerjee had entrusted Gautam Sarkar with the task of containing Pele and in his ‘dream match’ Sarkar left no stone unturned.
Mohun Bagan held a felicitation ceremony for Pele in the evening where he was to be presented with a diamond ring but the ‘Black Pearl’ was more interested in meeting the players. Goalkeeper Shivaji Banerjee was the first to meet him. When the name of the sixth player was announced, Pele, surrounded by many people, came out of the barricade and embraced the player. The government has kept those memories fresh even after 45 years.
He said, “You are the one with number 14 jersey who did not allow me to score. I was stunned. He said, “Chunnida (Chunni Goswami) was also standing near me who heard this. He told me that Gautam should stop playing football now. Now what is left to achieve after listening to this praise. This was the biggest achievement of my career. Indeed .”
The match was the result of the efforts of Dhiren Dey, the famous football administrator of the Kolkata ground, who was then the general secretary of Mohun Bagan. Sarkar said, “I could not believe it when Dhiren da told us that Pele would play against us. We said don’t lie but later came to know that it is going to happen right. Our sleepless nights just flew away. The preparations started three weeks in advance. Shyam Thapa, who scored the first goal in that match, said, “I came from East Bengal to Mohun Bagan just to play against Pele.” This match changed the fortunes of our club.
Mohun Bagan defeated East Bengal in the IFA Shield final four days after this match. After this, the Rovers Cup and Durand Cup were also won. Seven years ago Pele again came to Bengal during Durga Puja but this time with a stick in his hand. Despite his growing age, his passion remained the same and ‘Prince of Kolkata’ Sourav Ganguly was also included in his fans.
Ganguly said at the reception for Pele at the Netaji Indoor Stadium, “I have played three World Cups and there is a lot of difference between being a winner and a runner-up.” To win three World Cups and the Golden Boot is a big deal.” Pele said, “I accepted the invitation to come to India because I like the people here very much.” He had also said while leaving, “If I can help in any way, I will come again.”
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