The legendary football player Pele of Brazil is currently on a 3 day visit to the eastern Indian city of Kolkata (Calcutta). He is visiting India to be the guest of honour at the ISL defending champions Atletico de Kolkata’s home game against Kerala Blasters.
Pele arrived in Kolkata on Sunday morning and was checked into his room at the Taj Bengal Hotel. He was received by Indian football icons Chuni Goswami and Dipendu Biswas. The 74 year old took a day off and rested at his hotel room after this to recover from jet-lag. The hotel has announced a special menu in honour of the legend. Restaurants at the Taj Bengal, Sonargaon, The Hub, and The Junction will be offering special delicacies to mark the occasion.
On Tuesday, he will be at Kolkata’s Salt Lake Stadium to see the home team Atletico de Kolkata take on Kerala Blasters in the Indian Super League. This is the second season of the ISL, which features 8 franchisees from Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Kerala, Pune, Chennai, and the North-East.
Though India ranks poorly in FIFA rankings, but the first season of the ISL still managed to become a huge success. The total viewership crossed 429 million across India, making it one of the most viewed television events anywhere in the world. In fact, more people in the country watched the ISL than the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
One reason for the ISL’s popularity is because of the association of several marquee players and coaches with the teams, namely, Marco Materazzi, Luis García, Robert Pirès, David Trezeguet, Elano, Joan Capdevila, David James, Alessandro Del Piero, Nicolas Anelka, Roberto Carlos, and many others.
Zico a former football great himself from Pele’s country Brazil, has been coaching the Goa franchisee since last year.
This is Pele’s second visit to Kolkata. His last visit was in 1977 when his team Cosmos played a game against local club Mohunbagan. That game ended in a 2-2 draw. Pele will reunite with the Mohunbagan class of 77 on Monday evening. He will also be formally introduced to the former India cricket captain Sourav Ganguly.
Pele’s original name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento. A three time world cup winner for Brazil, Pele played 91 games for his country, scoring 77 goals.