KOCHI: Pele never came to Kerala during his lifetime and no one from the state could watch live the Brazilian’s exploits in the World Cups as television was still a distant dream for them back then. Still, he should be credited with making a majority of Keralites fall in love with the ‘beautiful game’.
The Kerala state program had a section dedicated to the life of the Brazilian football legend in the late 70s and early 80s, which was one of the main reasons why Pele developed an image iconic here in the state. Pele’s life was part of a three-page lesson in the Class V Malayalam language textbook. school,” recalls Abdul Saleem EK, the former Kerala Police football goalkeeper.
“I first heard of these three words—Football, Brazil and Pele even before I went to school. My father had a small tea shop in our village at Edavanamkunnath in Mukkam near Kozhikode One of my father’s friends, Achuthan used to come to the teahouse in the evenings and he used to tell stories about Pele,” Saleem added. “We had to wait until 1986 to watch football live on TV. Until then, it was those stories, the chapter and the writings about him that gave Pele a larger than life image,” he said. declared.
The only other way Malayalis got a glimpse of Pelé in action was through film reels of him that were shown at fairgrounds and in cinemas. “In the late 1960s an exhibition was held in Thekkinkadu Maidan, Thrissur where recorded highlights from the 1966 World Cup were displayed. It was the first time I watched Pele and his amazing skills,” former India goalkeeper Victor Manjila said.
“Pelé was very young at that time, but his style attracted a lot of people who came to see the highlights. Pele’s specialty was his ability to control air balloons. He jumped high in the air and received the ball with his chest. The ball will then roll through his body and reach his legs. It was a sight to behold. No wonder he was the first hero of football for many of us,” added Manjila.
Former India international CK Vineeth was one of the players from the state who got to see Pele. Pelé sat in the VVIP stands when Vineeth team Kerala Blasters faced ATK in Kolkata when the Brazilian legend came to Kolkata in 2015. “I got a glimpse of Pelé when he was in the VVIP box. It was a moment to cherish as I watched a footballing icon I had only heard of since childhood.Although he left before I entered the pitch as a second-half substitute, his image in the stands will always be in my mind,” Vineeth said.



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