'Don't cry, dad. I will win the World Cup': How Pele kept his promise

Pele had not only earned Brazil their first World Cup in 1958, but he changed the game forever



Pele (left) cries after Brazil won the 1958 World Cup final against Sweden. — Twitter
Pele (left) cries after Brazil won the 1958 World Cup final against Sweden. — Twitter
by

Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Sat 31 Dec 2022, 12:02 AM

One of the greatest mysteries in football is that a footballer as revered as Pele never got his World Cup predictions right.

From backing an African team to win the World Cup before the start of the 21st century to tipping Colombia for the ultimate glory at the 1994 World Cup, each of Pele's big predictions fell flat on his face.

But there was one Pele prediction that proved prophetic. And he made that prediction long before he even wore football boots as a professional.

It was July 16, 1950, when a nine-year-old Pele returned home after a game of street football with his friends only to discover tears in his father's eyes.

His father, Dondinho, was a professional footballer whose career was cut short by injuries.

But an unfulfilled career was not the reason for his father's tears that day.

It was Brazil shock defeat to Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro that broke Dondinho’s heart.

“The (1950) World Cup was going on in Brazil. My father and his friends were at our home listening to the radio commentary of the final between Brazil and Uruguay. It was a match everybody thought Brazil would win easily,” Pele recalled during his speech at a Dubai event in 2014.

“I didn’t want to follow the radio commentary. My love for football was always about playing with my friends. So I went to play with the other kids in the streets. When I came back home I could hear a pin drop. I saw my father and he was crying like a baby. When I asked him why he was crying, he said Brazil lost the final. He was heartbroken."

“Don't cry, dad,” the young Pele consoled his father before promising him that one day he would win the World Cup for his beloved Brazil.

Remarkably, eight years later, Pele was picked by the Brazil team for the 1958 World Cup based on his phenomenal exploits in domestic club football.

The youngster played dazzling football in that World Cup. Showing his array of dazzling skills, Pele scored a hat trick in the semifinal against France, becoming the youngest player in history to score three goals in a World Cup match.

Pele was unstoppable in the final, scoring two goals, the second of which was a sublime finish from inside the box, against hosts Sweden to script a historic World Cup triumph for Brazil.

As the world celebrated the birth of a phenomenon at the final whistle, Pele broke down in tears.

The prodigious teenager was overwhelmed with emotion as the memories of his father's tears kept flooding back to his mind.

Pele had not only earned Brazil their first World Cup in 1958, but he changed the game forever.


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