The king of ‘the beautiful game,’ touched the world and left a mark on Qatar’s pitches
Before Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele, inspired billions, he graced Qatar’s pitches at the local Doha Stadium.
Fresh off triumphing in his third FIFA World Cup title, Pele anchored in Qatar with his club Santos FC in 1973 to face Al Ahli.
At the club level, Pele stood as Santos’s all-time top goalscorer, with 643 goals in 659 games, and his mere presence triggered a wave of ecstasy among the 2,000-capacity venue.
Former winger for Al Ahli Mohammed Al Siddiqui described the moment of playing against Pele as a privilege in an interview recalling the rare moment.
“All the local clubs played there, and it was a bustling beehive of activity throughout the week, so when word came out that Pele and Santos were coming to town, Doha Stadium erupted with anticipation,” said Al Siddiqui.
“Everyone in the country wanted to be there,” Al Siddiqui added.
To this day, Pele was the only player in history to win the coveted trophy three times, affirming his reputation as a household name worldwide.
Doha Stadium was the only green pitch in the region then, and Pele’s invite to play local games within the Gulf marketed its status.
The Brazilian superstar recreated similar exhibition matches in Kuwait and Bahrain, illuminating football fans far from the spotlight.
“It is every player’s dream to compete against the best athletes of their time, and that’s exactly what Santos represented. Their team boasted some of the greatest players ever, led by Pele, a player that captured the imagination of the entire world with his skills and larger than life personality,” said Al Siddiqui.
“We were all mesmerised by his ability on the ball, but what really stole the show for us was the way he conducted himself off the pitch.”
Pele died aged 82 on Thursday, survived by his children and grandchildren, with people worldwide recalling their impression of the superstar.