Being one of the very first young black sporting superstars of the television era, Pelé drew the love and affinity of Africans across the continent.
As decolonisation movements swept across Africa in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Pelé was invited by newly independent countries to play in prestigious friendlies with his club Santos FC and the Brazilian national team.
In his autobiography, Pelé said that the following decades and subsequent repeated trips to the African continent, “changed not only my view of the world, but also the way the world perceived me”.
The author of the Almanac of FC Santos, Guilherme Nascimento, correctly pointed out that the African trips were “so full of stories that there is no clear boundary between legend and fact”.
His time in Algeria, for instance, was like something out of a film. In 1965, the 24-year-old arrived while film director Gillo Pontecorvo was shooting The Battle of Algiers.
As a result, it was perfectly normal to see battle tanks shuttle across Algiers from downtown to the Casbah. Algeria’s football-loving President Ahmed Ben Bella scheduled two friendly matches for the occasion – one in Oran on June 15, and one in
the capital, Algiers, four days later.
However, on June 17, Ben Bella’s own Minister of Defence Houari Boumediene carried out a coup d’etat, deposing the president and cancelling the second match.
Some credible journalists and historians believe that Boumediene may have used the commotion around Pele’s arrival as a distraction to carry out his coup.
Source: The Observer