SA former football players touched by Pele’s death

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The impact the late football legend Pele made will be felt throughout the globe for many years to come. The larger-than-life Brazilian global icon, who passed away on Thursday aged 82, also left the indelible mark to many South Africans across politics and sports.

The African National Congress (ANC) stalwart, Tokyo Sexwale, football icons, Kaizer Motaung and Augusto Palacios, were also touched by his extraordinary personality.

Pele was named Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee in 1999. In 2000, he was voted World Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics. In 2007, Pele and Samuel Eto’o headed the list of international stars for a match to honour Nelson Mandela’s 89th birthday at Newlands Rugby Stadium in Cape Town.

More than 50 players from Africa and other continents, including Ruud Gullit, Christian Karembeu, Abedi Pele, George Weah, took part in the “90 Minutes for Mandela” match.

The match pitted Africa against the rest of the world. And Sexwale has fond memories of the match.

Sexwale says, “This is one of the four balls that were produced by Adidas at our request from the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Madiba kept one, Pele kept one, FIFA kept one and I kept one and I was allowed to keep this one and Pele came to support this initiative he represented African players as well as African players and he gave a t-shirt of the Brazilian team to Madiba so it was a great moment for Pele to be here.”

Pele scored more than a 1 000 goals in his professional career.

During his international career, he won three FIFA World Cups: 1958, 1962 and 1970, the only player to do so. Sexwale says he was not just a sporting figure but also vocal in a fight against racism.

“When we launched Global Watch which was a campaign against racism and to stand up in solidarity he is one of the first people we contacted. We had head of states, we had Kofi Annan and Thabo Mbeki. I was the founder of that campaign and Pele on a phone call when I said I want your voice he said Tokyo you have my face whatever yo want I will come.”

Sexwale on Pele’s active role against racism:

And in football circles, Kaizer Motaung had an honour to share the pitch with Pele during his time at Atlanta Chiefs in the America in 1968.

Santos won the match 6-2 with Pele scoring a hat trick for his team while Motaung also scored one goal for Chiefs.

“The occasion itself was unbelievable because we knew that we are not just playing a team called Santos. But we were playing against the greatest of all time during my life time and when he came to play against Atlanta Chiefs and we played against Pele. He was a leading figure in that team and you can understand they beat us 6-2 and he scored about three goals although I must say I was very happy, I also scored one goal in that game that was a consolation from our side. He was an unbelievable character in fact on and off the field. But off the field you would not come up against any humble person like that one he was such a humble person you wouldn’t believe that he was a top athlete throughout the world and someone who was seen as the best in the world at that time,” says Motaung.

Pele arguably the greatest footballer the world have ever seen: Kaizer Motaung:

Another football icon, who met Pele is former Orlando Pirates coach, Augusto Palacios.

The Brazilian was former teammate of SA football legend, Jomo Sono at New York Cosmos, during the 1970s. Here is Augusto Palacios.

“I’m happy that when I was born and I copied too many things from him when I was a player. And you can’t compare him with anyone we did not mention he played with Jomo Sono and against Kaizer Motaung”

Pele’s funeral service will be held on Monday and Tuesday just outside Sao Paulo in Brazil. –Reporting by Vincent Sitsula