Thirty-eight years after he had played a friendly for New York Cosmos against Mohun Bagan at Eden Gardens, Pele would be coming to Kolkata again.
At 74 years of age, the Brazilian legend, however, is a little too old to mesmerise fans with his football skills. He would be coming here as a guest of honour for Atletico de Kolkata’s first home game in ISL 2 on October 13, according to a press release.
Atletico de Kolkata have Sourav Ganguly as a co-owner. His team would be playing against Sachin Tendulkar’s Kerala Blasters. Pele’s presence alongside them will light up the Salt Lake Stadium. Pele, along with Ganguly, will also deliver a keynote address at the NSHM Knowledge Campus before attending an auction to raise money for West Bengal Relief Fund.
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“It’s such an honour for me to be able to make this trip. India is a very special country and I’ve good memories from my time there many years ago. The fans were fantastic. India is a very passionate football nation, and I look forward to meeting a whole new generation of fans while continuing to spread the overwhelming love that I’ve for this beautiful game,” Pele said in the release.
Between 1977 and 2015, Kolkata has hosted some giants of the game — the late Bobby Moore, Oliver Kahn, Diego Maradona, Gerd Muller, Karl Heinze Rumminiege, Ruud Gullit and Lionel Messi. But Pele’s visit is still considered to be special. Old-timers still recall his free-kick in the match against Mohun Bagan that had enthralled a capacity crowd at Eden. Pele was denied by the woodwork.
The great man will also have a stopover in Delhi, to attend the 56th edition of the Subroto Cup final as a special ambassador. Health permitting, he’s likely to have a week-long stay in the country.