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A promise in 1950 fulfilled in 1958; how Pele won the Cup for Brazil and his father

There could be no other more important event in the 1958 World Cup rather than Pele’s mercurial performance at the age of 17. As Brazil lifted the World trophy, a new era of Football started; it was the day when the story of Pele and Brazil began.

Pele in action in the 1958 World Cup

Brazil had been so near to win the Cup. They were placed third in 1938 and were the finalists in 1950. But the coveted cup eluded them. Their 1958 team had two names – Pele and Garrincha- the duo that completely changed the dynamics of Brazilian attack. Garrincha was a popular name in the squad whose exclusion in the 1954 team was highly criticized. In the 1958 Cup, Garrincha found his new partner, Pele who used the biggest stage to showcase his talent to the world.

The Brazilian sensation was out from the first two matches due to injury. Brazil won their first match against Austria by 3-0 but had a mediocre draw against England. Their third match against the reigning Olympic champion USSR was the last of the group stage. In Pele’s own words, when “I was bouncing off the walls with frustration”, Brazilian coach Vicente Feola consulted the team doctor if he could be put into the team. Dr Paulo, as he was famously known, perhaps took the most important decision of his life that eventually gifted Pele to the world.

Brazil’s national soccer team poses before the 1958 World Cup final

So, on 15th June 1958, Pele ran into Gothenburg’s Nya Ullevi stadium in front of around 50,000 spectators to make his World Cup debut for Brazil. The ‘little black kid’ put the entire stadium in awe as he stripped off his tracksuit to reveal a Brazil shirt with a big 10 number- he being the youngest player of the tournament. Pele later wrote in his autobiography, “When the teams lined up for the national anthems, I felt a surge of emotion course through my veins: this was what it was all about. To represent one’s country, a football-mad country, in the biggest competition of them all, was simultaneously awe-inspiring and yet distracting.”

Pele’s father Dondinho and mother Celeste

But nothing could distract Pele from winning the World Cup- a promise that he made to his father in 1950 when he was only a 10 year old boy. Joao Ramos Do Nascimento, better known as Dondinho, was himself a die-hard Football player but was not lucky enough to represent his country. So he always wanted his son, Edson Arantes Do Nascimento, better known as Pele, to be a footballer.

The year 1950 saw Brazil being recognized as the host of World Cup by FIFA due to its unprecedented progress in Football. Brazil had never won a Football World Cup before and a victory would have been a further boost to their confidence. As the home team progressed to the final, every Brazilian was super excited and was confident of winning the Cup. But to their utter dismay, Brazil lost to Uruguay in the final that led to a sort of ‘national tragedy’ in the country.

Pele cried on the shoulders of his team-mates after the win

Pele, just a child then, remembered the ‘zombie-like situation’ in his home town on that absolutely silent day. “Just thinking about that afternoon, and remembering the sadness that was everywhere, even today gives me a goose-flesh. The noise of cheers, and firecrackers and radios turned up to full volume had disappeared into a void of silence.” It was the day when Pele for the first time saw his father cry and that was more shocking to him rather than losing the World Cup. So on that day, to make Dondinho feel better, he promised his father, “One day, I’ll win you the World Cup.”

Pele with his parents after his triumphant return from Sweden in 1958

Thus, Pele was there in the world stage to keep the promise made to his father on that fatal afternoon. In the quarterfinal against Wales, he scored the winner, then a hat trick in the semis versus France and a brace in the final against hosts Sweden. His goal in the final made him the youngest scorer in a World Cup final at the age of 17 years and 249 days. After the final win, Pele’s first thoughts were about his family in Bauru. Pele remembered, “I wanted to speak to my parents, but there were no telephones and so I kept on saying- ‘I’ve got to tell my dad, I’ve got to tell my dad.” At last the disappointment of 1950 was over; Brazil were the World Champions for the first time. It was an indescribable feeling and everybody wanted to experience it again and again.

About Poulomi Kundu

PoulomiKundu started her career in 2000 as a freelance journalist in Hindustan Times. Soon after she was selected an intern in Zee News, Kolkata. After her post- graduation in English, Poulomi joined the leading television production house of eastern India, Rainbow Productions. She was a journalist in Khas Khobor, a Bengali news magazine programme in Doordarshan and also headed the post production department of another programme, Khas Kolkata. In 2004, Poulomi moved to Delhi as a creative writer in an advertising agency, Brand Stewards Pvt. Ltd. In 2005, she again shifted her base for a better opportunity and that in Mumbai. There she got the job in Raa Media Pvt Ltd. as an associate director of two programmes for Doordarshan-Yuva and Paisa Vasool. In the meantime, she also wrote features in DNA as a freelancer. Poulomi directs promotional videos, develops scripts for films for Corporate and NGOs. But an ardent sports lover, Poulomi always had an urge to contribute somewhere in the field of sports. Her love for sports started from an early age when she played gully cricket and football for local teams. Academics and professional hazards sometimes took her away from her passion, but it never died in her. She always nurtured the never-ending dream. So she materialized her dream in the form of ‘SPORTSAVOUR’. It is an online sports portal that serves sports with the tagline ‘For the indigenous, unconventional, unknown’.

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