I had recently turned 11 years old. I was laying on my bed that Sunday morning, staring at my all-time hero’s poster on the wall.For some, if I call out the name Edson Arantes do Nascimento, it might not ring a bell. But if I say, Pele, heads will immediately turn and ears listen. It was the 21st June 1970. That day, the world stood still in front of their TV sets. And that is the year that I also acknowledge soccer as one of my passions.  My dad and Iconnected through it, in a way that nothing else could. My mother’s granddad and children migrated to Costa Rica and Panama from Colombia, at the beginning of the 20th century. They took along, their love for soccer. Eventually founded one of the Panamanian National League’s Clubs, Alianza FC and itscurrent champion.


Allow me to clarify here that I was a lousy player. Nevertheless, a fast one.  My classmates nickname me “Horse”. I have long legs and could ran fast, so I did score a few goals in my life. From the team that I started with my schoolmates and shoeshine and newspaper sales boys, inspired by the 1974 World Cup, wearingjerseys sponsored by my godfather’s pest-control brand, through the matches, four years later, at Adicora Beach in Venezuela andlater during my university days back in Panama, until October1992 in Singapore, where I injured my knee and made the wise decision of start taking responsibility over my body. But wait a minute. This is not about me.


They called him many things, but the want that stands is “O’Rei”, the King. The little boy from Tres Coracoes, in Minas Gerais, Brazil, who dream of becoming a World Football Star and accomplished it, is gone. Pele will remain in our hearts forever. In 1958, he became the youngest player to participate at a World Cup.  Moreover, he was crucial for his country to win said tournament in Sweden. Since that moment, the member of the Santos squad turns into a legend. Almost every kid at the time and for many years, wanted to be him. He became a role model for many. In my opinion, no other, without mentioning names, has managed to emulate his prominence, though they tried.


Pele refereed to soccer as “the beautiful game”. He coined the phrase. Indeed, it is. The best way to honor this man, is by making sure that said sport does not continue to be stained by scandals or through wrongdoings. Recently, the latest version of the FIFA Cup was played in the Middle East for the first time. I am sure that from his hospital bed, The King was hoping to watch the Brazilian team win for a sixth time. Unfortunately, it was not the case. Yet, he took with him the pride that it is still the only one to have won the most times until this present day.


For those who believe in afterlife, he can be imagine as playing on a huge field, somewhere beyond us, together with Cruyff, Didi, Garrincha, Maradona, Bobby Moore, Paolo Rossi, Socrates and many others, who as Pele, will never be forgotten. Hopefully, the new generations get to know about this football icon and learn about his grandeur, not only as a sportsman but as a compassionate human being, who never forgot his humble origins and that stardom did not shadow his kindness. Pele was such an extraordinary person that the only one time my hero visited Panama, the ground literally shake. It was the first time I experienced a tremor and it was all because of the Greatest…

by Rodrigo Chiari