Pele’s magic still intact
Although he has not played a game since his gala farewell match on 1 October 1977, whenever Pele comes to town, the media frenzy that greeted his 1975 American arrival still exists. His appearance this summer at the NASDAQ MarketSite, at the Times Square crossroads of the world, was no exception. Coming the same week as the current generation’s superstar, David Beckham, arrived in America, media and fans sought out Pele as a reminder of when soccer got its first big start in the USA. From the moment he arrived to ring the opening bell of America’s largest electronic stock market until he left the building three and a half hours later, he was surrounded by fans, journalists and well-wishers. More than 30 television personnel, photographers and press reporters eagerly filled the cosy confines of the NASDAQ TV studio, where the opening bell ceremony is staged daily. Dozens more waited patiently on the second floor, where Pele held a mid-morning news conference, and as is common around superstars, many did not want to leave the event until the star did, to ensure they were in his company for as long as possible.
O Rei had graciously agreed to do an hour of interviews after the formal news conference, and in that time he showed why after so many years off the field he still remains one of international football’s greatest assets. With smiles, kisses, hugs and thoughtful answers, he charmed media from all around the world as they were shuttled into the green room for one-on-one chats.
During his playing career, any word, any overheard sentence was considered a gem and immediately went directly to the headline writers. Pele’s latest journey to New York proved that little has changed since his celebrated playing days. The media professionals from the world’s leading publications and networks approached Pele with great respect, wanting a further nugget about the Read Futbol Mundial programme, about Brazil’s performance in the Copa America, the USA’s soccer progress since his playing days in the 70s, and, of course, whether David Beckham can finally establish a solid foothold for the game among American sports fans! He was the oracle of the day.
Speaking effortlessly in English, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, he charmed every questioner and turned on his world-famous smile even when the inquiries were thorny. There can be no greater diplomat in the world than this humble man from Tres Coracoes. The grace and style he had on the field continues in his new life as soccer’s icon and as the first Read Futbol Mundial ambassador.