HTLS 2018: God is Brazil’s coach, says Pele
The best thing about being part of John Huston’s 1981 film ‘Escape to Victory’ was that he knew you would win, said Pele. That is not something he could say about his extraordinary life. Steered by former India football captain Bhaichung Bhutia, the conversation at the 16th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit spanned generations and continents. It had anecdotes from the life of a boy proud to be named after Thomas Edison but who now loves being called Pele.
The conversation was about a 17-year-old, who said he thought his father was joking when told of being selected for Brazil. It covered a career in which Pele, the legend who never wanted to be a coach, won three World Cups.
Pele did not deflect questions that could have seemed uncomfortable, but did produce the unexpected feint that would leave defenders chasing crooked shadows. So when Bhutia asked him to choose between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, Pele first pointed out how they different in their styles are and reminisced about being compared to George Best.
“Ronaldo is more of a centre forward but Messi has ball control and organises the team… But if I have to select in my team, I would select Messi,” he said.
For Pele, England’s World Cup winners Booby Moore and Bobby Charlton would have been just as successful today. The biggest change in football, he said, is the improvement in infrastructure. “I sometimes say if I had that kind of facility and support, I would not stop at 1,200 goals, I would score 2,000, 3,000 goals.” The audience roared. Just as it did when Pele explained how Brazil has an assembly-line of football talent. “Simple, God is the coach of Brazil,” he said.
Looking back at Brazil teams, Pele elided two that won the World Cup (1994 and 2002) but spoke glowingly of the teams of 1958 and 1962. “The last great generation was that of Zico and Socrates (1982-86). Now we are starting again; we have Neymar and (Philippe) Coutinho but we need to prove ourselves,” he said.
When Shaji Prabhakaran, president of Football Delhi, asked from the audience what he would do if he was president of the All India Football Federation for one day, Pele said: “Send the youngsters to Brazil for three months every year.”