Legend arrives for capital conquest

Pele in Delhi

Legend arrives for capital conquest

After mesmerizing Kolkata with his infectious charm, the king of football Pele touched down in the Indian capital on his first visit here on Wednesday night.

The 74-year-old was welcomed by top officials of Air Force, the organisers of the Subroto Cup, at the airport before being escorted to his hotel in Gurgaon.

A small but excited gathering of air force personnels greeted Pele outside the VIP entrance of Terminal 3. The sports team of Air Force that competes in shooting, volleyball, athletics and tennis waited in breathless anticipation of the legend for nearly an hour.

One of them had overnight sketched a portrait of the Brazilian to gift him, another carried a placard welcoming the Black Pearl, hoping for it to be autographed.

Around 8.30 pm, Pele, dressed in grey suit and ringed by security officials, arrived amidst great clamour and incessant clicking by a handful of shutterbugs. Even as security officials sweated over his safe exit from the airport, Pele walked the short stretch to his car, a white Rolls Royce, with remarkable composure.

Such exertions are obviously not new to him. He even took a minute to wave to the enthusiastic group before stepping inside the car.

The Brazilian legend had just wrapped up a whirlwind and exhausting three-day visit to Kolkata, reviving fond memories of 38 summers ago when he came calling with his star-studded New York Cosmos team. He would be attending the Subroto Cup match at the Ambedkar Stadium on Friday during his three-day stay here.
His day on Thursday will begin with an interaction with the organisers, where he would discuss his thoughts on how football at the grassroots could be developed.

In the evening at his hotel he would meet the media followed by a charity event and dinner hosted in his honour. Top dignitaries and government officials are expected to attend the event.

On the last day of his week-long tour, he will attend the under-17 boys final of the Subroto Cup.

“He will attend the whole match. He will be speaking to the players and also give away the prizes,” one of the officials said.

Chaotic departure

In Kolkata, hundreds of football fans gathered at the airport to catch a glimpse of Pele as he departed for Delhi in the evening.

The situation became such that the security personnel had to keep Pele confined inside his vehicle for nearly 15 minutes. He could be escorted into the airport only after a contingent of city police and CISF personnel formed a cordon around him.

According to team officials in Atletico de Kolkata, the Indian Super League team which hosted Pele in Kolkata, the Brazilian giant was delighted with the affection he received.

“He expressed his love and hoped to return to the city, his health permitting. He was pleased that even after 38 years Kolkata gave him so much love and honour,” an official said. 

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