Edson Arantes do Nascimento famously known as Pelé, who died on Thursday, December 29, was a football legend but that didn't stop the then Kenyan Football Federation chairman Kenneth Matiba from snubbing the soccer great when he visited the country.
In 1976, six years after leading Brazil to World Cup glory, Kenyans were given a rare treat when Pele visited the country.
Pele, the greatest footballer on earth, took Starehe Boys Centre schoolboys through their paces at the Jamhuri Park Stadium.
However, what was going to be the mother of all visits – symbolic though it was – ended in a fiasco.
Kenneth Matiba, the then Kenya Football Federation (KFF) Chairman, said the federation would have nothing to do with Pele.
According to the Daily Nation, “Steve Richards, a former British sports reporter and member of Pele’s delegation, told Matiba that he had not been consulted about arrangements for Pele’s visit because he [Matiba] “was just a publicity seeker.”
Naturally, Matiba took umbrage with Pepsi firing Richards and apologising to the KFF chairman.
According to the paper, Matiba said his slighting of the soccer impresario had to be seen in the context of KFF not knowing whether Pele was in Kenya to promote football or as a Pepsi Cola salesman
In his book, Pele: The Autobiography, he wrote, “It was in 1973 that I signed a contract with the Pepsi Cola Company to work on a worldwide project of football workshops for children called the International Youth Football Programme, on which I would collaborate with Julio Mazzei. I decided to try it out for a year – and it turned out to be one of the best things I ever got involved with.
“After the first year was done, I signed for another five. The programme was a triumph. It cost nothing to coaches, schools, or players. We produced a book and various posters of Professor Mazzei teaching, and made a coaching film called Pele: The Master and His Method, which won eleven international prizes.”
The whole world including current stars led by France’s striker Kylian Mbappe sent messages of comfort and recovery to the Brazilian legend when he was admitted to intensive care a week ago.
Reports in Brazil said the 82-year-old had been moved to palliative care after a cancer battle.
The three-time World Cup winner ranks highly among the greatest players of all time, and he underwent surgery to remove a tumour from his colon last year.
There have been frequent hospital visits since, but reports claimed Pele was not responding to chemotherapy treatment and was instead receiving pain-relieving measures in an end-of-life care ward.
France striker Mbappe, immersed in a World Cup campaign with Les Bleus in Qatar, wrote on Twitter: "Pray for the king."
As a 17-year-old, Pele inspired Brazil to their first World Cup triumph in 1958, and he won the tournament with the Selecao twice more, in 1962 and 1970.