Edson Arantes do Nascimento aka Pele is one of the greatest players to step onto a football pitch. Unfortunately, the Brazil legend took his last breath on Friday (December 30) and left the footballing world behind in tears. Having led Brazil to as many as three FIFA World Cups (1958, 1962 and 1970), Pele’s legacy is beyond the words written in this article. To put it simply, what he did and what he was as a human and athlete is just beyond explanation. But have you wondered what it was really like to watch him play? Yes? That’s just great.
However, what if I ask you a better yet scary question? have you ever marked him on a football pitch? Well, ZEEnewsenglish got an opportunity to interact with a man who once played against the most feared forward in the history of football. India’s Goutam Sarkar was handed the duty to mark the Brazil legend in a friendly between the New York Cosmos and Indian football club Mohun Bhagan. Pele along with his Cosmos troops flew down to Kolkata (the homeland of football in India) to participate in a friendly match at the Eden Gardens on September 25, 1977.
It was no surprise that around 80,000 spectators were present at the venue to have a good glimpse at the 3-time World Cup winner in India. Little did the ‘Black Pearl’ expect from India if we talk about the craze of football. However, he was left in awe watching so many people coming to watch a game of football in a country where football is arguably not the most liked sport.
Talking to zeenewsenglish, Sarkar, the man who was given the duty to keep Pele from not scoring a goal relived the moment and expressed his emotions about the football match, which he terms as the ‘best game’ of his life.
“The experience was beyond imagination, words and dreams. It is something I cannot put to words but one thing I am proud of is that all my team members including myself, gave it our all,” said Mr. Sarkar, who’s surely one of the greatest footballer/defender in the Indian history.
When asked about what it was like to mark the GOAT/GOD of footballers at that point he said, “When I was asked if I could do it, I said yes and was very excited for it. I did everything I could and Pele recognized The efforts, me and teammates put in that game and he talked to us after the match.”
#OnThisDay In 1977, Pele played for Cosmos Club (USA) against @Mohun_BaganAC in an exhibition match at Eden Gardens pic.twitter.com/BPb5LOuaSY— Hero I-League (@ILeagueOfficial) September 24, 2015
“At first glance, I gave him a bit of space and in a blink of an eye, he scooped the ball over me and I was left behind. Then I talked to myself and said ‘no matter who I am facing, I have to give it my best’.”
“Next time, I tackled him, not on his body but the ball and he gave me a good long stare at that moment. space, he will produce something dangerous, so I kept myself close to him. Maybe I shouldn’t say this but mentally I prepared myself to give him a good challenge and played the game of my life. He was left impressed by me and my teammates after the game and he also asked why don’t you guys try to play in Europe.”
Pele and his team played a couple of games in different countries like China, Korea and more before coming to me. Obviously, they won all those games and they won it with big margins, informed by Mr. Goutam Sarkar. A 2-2 draw can be deemed as a victory itself against the likes of such great players and the appreciation they showed to the Mohun Bhagan side is also not something one should.
“Hey, you number 14 (Goutam Sarkar), you didn’t let me play today,” said the Brazilian legend with a laugh afterwards.
Little did he know what it meant to Sarkar and his teammates. “Goutam, you stop playing football now, this is the best comment coming from you know who,” said one of Goutam’s teammates after Pele congratulated him on a good game.