When Pele failed to score a goal in Dubai

The greatest-ever goalscorer failed to find the back of the net when he played a friendly game for the famous Brazilian club, Santos, in Dubai

by

Rituraj Borkakoty

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Brazil's Pele scores past Venezuela's goalkeeper Fabrizio Fasano during a match in 1969 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. - AP file
Brazil's Pele scores past Venezuela's goalkeeper Fabrizio Fasano during a match in 1969 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. - AP file

Published: Sat 31 Dec 2022, 12:15 AM

Pele, arguably the greatest footballer of all time who died at the age of 82, famously won three World Cups with Brazil.

The first of those three World Cups came in 1958 as a prodigious 17-year-old when he captivated the world with his array of dazzling tricks and predatory goalscoring instincts.

So ruthless was the Brazilian in the penalty box that he ended up scoring more than a thousand goals in his career.

No other player in the history of the game has won as many World Cups and scored as many goals as Pele did with such panache.

But the sport's greatest-ever goalscorer failed to find the back of the net when he played a friendly game for the famous Brazilian club, Santos, in Dubai.

The star-studded Santos locked horns with Dubai's Al Nasr club in a friendly game in 1973.

The Santos team featured several stars from the 1970 World Cup-winning Brazilian side.

When this reporter met Mohammed Al Khous, a former Al Nasr midfielder, during an event at the Emirates headquarters where Pele was unveiled as a global ambassador for the world's leading airline in 2014, the veteran UAE footballer recalled how the Brazilian legend failed to score against the Dubai club.

Pele looks at two fans wearing customised Pele T-shirts during a special screening of the iconic Brazilian player's greatest moments at Emirates headquarters in Dubai in 2014. - AFP file
Pele looks at two fans wearing customised Pele T-shirts during a special screening of the iconic Brazilian player's greatest moments at Emirates headquarters in Dubai in 2014. - AFP file

Al Khous was only 16 when he got to play against Pele and his Santos team in that friendly game in 1973.

“I remember that day very well. I played in that match. I was lucky to play against the world’s biggest club team of the time. It was a privilege to play against players like Pele, Edu and Carlos Alberto,” Al Khous told us.

“We lost 4-1, but we were lucky to score one goal at least! Pele didn’t score, but he played so well."

Pele and his Santos team played a myriad of exhibition games around the world. And yet the Brazilian never forgot the match he played in Dubai.

"He still remembers the game. When I talked to him today he asked me the name of the player that was marking him,” Al Khous told us.

“I was playing in the midfield and had a good view of what Pele was doing,” Al Khous recalled.

“He was just behind the strikers, making those tricky moves. His close control was amazing. I was guilty of admiring his play at a time when I was on the field to play against him!”

The Santos players were treated like Hollywood stars during their stay in the UAE.

“They spent three days here. We met them several times. We took pictures with all the big players. It was like a carnival," he said.

“There were so many people who came to see them. They wanted to see not just their game, but they were interested in everything about them. They wanted to see how they eat, how they move, what they do in the hotel! They were the biggest attractions in the country.”

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