The impossible task of shadowing Pele

Dec 30, 2022 05:15 PM IST

The packed hall of HT Leadership Summit 2018 waited with baited breath for Pele to take the centre stage

Edson Arantes Di Nascimanto will arrive on the stage in less than 20 minutes at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit 2018. But the guests and almost all organizers are still in the dark about his location. Is he still in his room? Not ready yet? Or, is he on his way to the event hall?

Pele at the Hindustan Time Leadership in October 2018. (File Photo)
Pele at the Hindustan Time Leadership in October 2018. (File Photo)

The only confirmed news floating around is he spelt well last night and is in a good mood, according to a Brazilian journalist who has accompanied Pele from across the Atlantic Ocean.

While the news about the football superstar’s mood is enough to soothe nerves, it is little solace for this correspondent, entrusted to shadow Pele for the event. The initial exuberance and sheer joy of meeting the legend has ebbed away into a gripping concern: if all the defenders of the world have failed to mark him, how would I keep him under watch?

The previous session of the HT Leadership Summit is over. The packed hall is waiting with baited breath for Pele to take the centre stage. The common entrance for all speakers and VVIPs is still unmanned. So, where is he coming from?

We did some quick calculation and ran to the other entrance—used primarily as a service door. And there, in a grey blazer and striped trousers, the man who made football beautiful is sitting quietly. A botched hip operation has made him wheelchair-bound.

Soon, a few VVIPs landed up on the dais to meet the legend. Pele smiled and shook hands with everyone. It was interesting to see whoever came to click a photo, Pele held the person’s hand, adding an extra dose of warmth.

Also Read |HTLS 2018: God is Brazil’s coach, says Pele

Did I say everyone clicked photo? Well, before I could pull out my cellphone from the pocket, the security guys declared, “No more photo, please. We are getting late for the event.”

As Pele and former Indian football captain Bhaichung Bhutia started the much-awaited conversation about the future of football, I am in a mission-mode to find the room number of Pele. In this crowded hall, there’s zero chance of talking to him or getting a coveted selfie.

In his room, all items have been specially decorated, reminding us of his glorious past. The cookies are coloured like the Brazil flag, a cake with his signature made of chocolate. A couple of signed Brazil shirts are kept on a shelf (actor Will Smith for one of them later in the evening). Miniature football candies, Pele’s photos, video of his famous goals added to the hype.

A colleague posed as a camera assistant to gain access, others made a long queue outside his room and this correspondent was so eager that he had an argument with one of Pele’s aide.

Finally, my chance came. “But only for a minute,” said his New York based manager.

As I enter, Pele sat on a chair. He looked at me, smiled and stretched his hand. I quickly held his hand and quipped, “Obrigado!”

Also Read | I will choose Messi over Ronaldo for my team, says Pele

He was amused, “You know Portuguese?” Then he started talking in Portuguese.

After a minute, I couldn’t follow his Portuguese anymore, and he didn’t understand a word of my Portuguese!

All this while, my hand was firmly in his clasp. Reverting to English, I told him, “I am from Calcutta, where you came to play in…”

Before I could finish, Pele’s smile broadened. “I remember my match in Calcutta.”

Get Latest India Newsalong with Latest Newsand Top Headlinesfrom India and around the world.
Story Saved
Saved Articles
My Reads
My Offers
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Monday, March 27, 2023
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Register Free and get Exciting Deals