When Pele was part of Kerala state syllabus | Football News – Times of India

KOCHI: Pele never came to Kerala during his life span and no one from the state could watch the Brazilian’s exploits at the World Cups live as television was still a distant dream for them then. Yet, he should be credited for making a majority of Keralites fall in love with the ‘beautiful game’.
The Kerala state syllabus had a dedicated portion on the life of the Brazil football legend in the late 70s and early 80s, which was one of the primary reasons behind Pele developing an iconic image here in the state. Pele’s life was part of a three-page lesson in Class V Malayalam language textbook. “A generation started worshipping Pele by not actually watching him play, but by reading about him, especially in our school textbook,” recollects Abdul Saleem EK, the former Kerala Police football custodian.
“I first heard about these three words — Football, Brazil, and Pele even before going to school. My father had a small tea shop in our village at Edavanamkunnath in Mukkam near Kozhikode. One of my father’s friends, Achuthan used to come to the tea shop in the evening and he used to reel off stories on Pele,” added Saleem. “We had to wait till 1986 to watch football live on television. Until then, it was these stories, the chapter, and writings on him that gave Pele a larger-than-life image,” he said.
The only other way Malayalis got a glimpse of Pele in action was through film reels on him that were shown in exhibition grounds and in film theatres. “In the late 60s, an exhibition was held in Thekkinkadu Maidan, Thrissur where the recorded highlights of the 1966 World Cup were shown. It was the first time I watched Pele and his amazing skills,” said former Indian goalkeeper Victor Manjila.
“Pele was very young at that time, but his style attracted many who came to watch the highlights. Pele’s specialty was his ability to control the aerial balls. He would jump high in the air and receive the ball with his chest. The ball will then roll down through his body and reach his legs. It was a sight to behold. No wonder, he was the first football hero for many of us,” added Manjila.
Former Indian international CK Vineeth was one of the players from the state who had the good fortune of seeing Pele. Pele was sitting in the VVIP stands when Vineeth’s team, Kerala Blasters, took on ATK in Kolkata when the Brazilian legend came to Kolkata in 2015. “I had a glimpse of Pele when he was in the VVIP box. It was a moment to cherish as I was watching a football icon whom I had only heard about from my childhood. Though he left before I entered the field as a second-half substitute, his image in the stands will always remain in my mind,” said Vineeth.

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