On November 19, 1969, Pelé stood in front of a ball placed on the penalty spot at the Maracana.
The last shot to reach 1,000 goals.
As he was getting ready, he realized something disturbing: “There was no one there.
I looked, and the players were all in the back,” he recalled in a recent Netflix documentary.
His teammates had remained embracing in the center of the field, as if they were contemplating a tiebreaker.
Pelé was worried about what would happen to the rebound if the goalkeeper saved it, or if he hit the post.
But he was alone.
Alone and terrified: “My legs were shaking.
He told me: 'I can't miss this penalty'.
It was the lonely destiny to which his genius led.
No one conceived that he could fail when he was going to take another bite out of history.
But above all, Pelé was often pushed to do things alone that were later celebrated by the whole world.
That November night, the Vasco de Gama goalkeeper guessed where to jump, but he did not reach the ball.
Nor Pelé, who entered behind to kiss him.
He could no longer escape from the goal.
Several thousand of the 100,000 spectators invaded the field and carried it on their shoulders.
There are recordings in which journalists thank him.
And they do it on behalf of all of Brazil.
The fear was his;
the joy of all
Three days later, the dictator, General Emílio Garrastazu Médici, who had barely been in charge of the regime for three weeks, wanted to see him.
And Pelé flew to Brasilia to answer his call.
The soldier, like all rulers, especially those in delicate situations of social support, knew the advantages of appearing with a symbol.
He even created a trophy for the occasion, the Garrastazu Médici cup.
This is how the dictator wanted his name to be linked forever to the amazing achievement of a thousand goals.
Pelé, 'O Rei' of football, dies at the age of 82
Pelé tried to treat all political sides with caution: “I always had the doors open.
Everybody know this.
Even in the worst moments, ”he recounted.
No one was ever closed.
He never fully gave himself up either: "They always wanted me to take sides."
Not surprisingly, no one was entirely satisfied.
The military dictatorship, established in Brazil after the 1964 coup, coincided with the Vietnam War and Mohamed Ali's refusal to enlist in April 1967. The boxer was sentenced to five years in prison and a $100,000 fine, although he paid a bail and did not go to prison.
He also had his license revoked and he spent three and a half years without being able to box.
The contrast of Pelé's balance with the courage of the boxer brought much criticism to the brazilian.
Its defenders always maintained that the risks of dissidence were not the same in a democracy as under a dictatorship.
Pelé defends himself in the documentary, which is also a kind of political testament: “I don't think I could do anything else.
Did the dictatorship bring something good?
Which side to be on?
You get lost in these things.
I am Brazilian and I only want the best for Brazil.
He was not a superman.
He was not miraculous.
It was nobody.
He was a normal person to whom God had given the gift of soccer.
But I am totally convinced that I have done much more for Brazil with my football, with my way of living, than many politicians who get paid to do that”.
In 1968, the dictatorship was further tightened with Institutional Act Number 5, or AI-5.
Congress was closed, President Artur da Costa e Silva concentrated power without controls and many rights and freedoms disappeared: censorship was established, habeas corpus was suspended in cases of political crimes and an era of arbitrary arrests and torture began. .
In this climate of institutional terror, General Médici, Costa e Silva's successor, was regularly seen on Sundays in the box of the Maracanã stadium with a transistor set against his ear.
People loved soccer.
That stamp distanced the dictator from the dirt of torture.
Like being photographed with Pelé after his thousandth goal.
All kinds of regimes have seen in football a tool through which to win the affection of more or less subjugated peoples, or of foreign critics, such as Qatar with its World Cup and Saudi Arabia with the Spanish Super Cup.
The next objective of the Brazilian dictatorship was the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, which was marked as a national mission after the England 1966 fiasco. That event had also been frustrating for Pelé, whom Portugal kicked off the field.
The Brazilian announced that he would not return to the World Cup: "I have the intention of not playing in the World Cups anymore, because I never have any luck," he said upon returning.
But Médici needed Pelé, to whom he constantly sent emissaries of all kinds: “He always had proposals to go talk to them.
With a governor, with a deputy.
Always with the message that he come back, ”he recalls.
The footballer lived in anguish: “The World Cup was important for the country.
But at that moment I didn't want to be Pelé.
I did not like it.
I didn't want to be.
And he asked: 'God, help me to make this my last World Cup'.
Political tensions did not reach only Pelé.
When Médici came to power, he found a communist, João Saldanha, an outspoken opponent of the dictatorship, as his selector.
The arrival of the general intensified the repression against the party in which the coach was a member, and in the last days of 1969 the regime assassinated Carlos Marighella, an old friend of Saldanha's, which infuriated him.
When he flew to Mexico in January 1970 for the draw for the World Cup calendar, he distributed to the international authorities a dossier with 3,000 names of political prisoners, and hundreds of those murdered and tortured.
It was not the only confrontation with the dictator, who wanted him to summon Dadá Maravilha and was contemplating with despair how he had removed Pelé from the national team.
He recounted that he could not field him because he had vision problems.
Pelé maintains that it was an invention of Saldanha, who was sacked in March.
He was replaced by Mario Zagallo, assisted by Army Captain Claudio Coutinho, and thus set Brazil on course for the World Cup desired by the dictator and the people, but viewed with suspicion by opponents of the regime and a large part of the press.
They believed that a victory in Mexico would strengthen Médici, who entered the tournament with polarizing ultranationalist slogans of the type: "Brazil, love it or leave it."
Zagallo took Dadá Maravilha to Mexico, although he didn't play for a minute, and the Canarinha won their third World Cup, which the dictatorship conveniently exploited.
However, the same Pelé who procured it was also the one who did not allow it to be attributed to him.
It was not the Médici World Cup, but the Pelé World Cup: “Winning the 1970 Cup was the best moment of my life, but it was more important for the country.
If Brazil lost in 1970, it could have made everything worse.
Being champions gave the country a breather”.
Pelé left another reflection on his anguished and lonely destiny: “The best thing about victory is not the trophy.
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