Influence of football greats on the game Three WCs in hand

    04-Jan-2023
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Five or ten or even twenty/thirty years down the line and 2022 will be remembered for reasons which centre around the beautiful game. Third World Cup for Argentina and to many this will be synonymous with Lionel Messi and even as the world and the South American country come to grips with the excitement of being the world champion in 2022, it will also be remembered as the year that the world lost Pele, the man synonymous not only with the World Cup but the game of football itself. Even before the FIFA World Cup entered the drawing rooms of each household in Manipur, the name Pele was synonymous with the beautiful game and by the time Manipur, like the rest of country, managed to catch the FIFA World Cup matches live on television as late as 1986, Pele was already a known name here. Significant to note too that it was the name Pele that drew hundreds of youngsters and the not so young to Usha Talkies back in the early 80s to watch the Hollywood flick, Escape to Victory. Here was the opportunity to watch the Black Pearl on the big screen for even before the advent of television in Manipur, the name had already caught the imagination of the youngsters and the not so young back then. Three World Cups is a record which is unlikely to be equalled any time and it is for this very reason why the 1958, 1962 and 1970 World Cups have become synonymous with the late man and to get an idea of the enormity of the three World Cups, remember all the other greats have had only one World Cup title. Maradona (Argentina) in 1986, Lothar Matheus (the then West Germany) in 1990, Romario and Bebeto (Brazil) in 1994, Zinedine Zidane (France) in 1998, Ronaldo Nazario (Brazil) in 2002, Cannavaro (Italy) in 2006, Andres Iniesta (Spain) in 2010, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mesut Ozil (Germany) in 2014, Kylian Mbappe (France) in 2018 and Lionel Messi (Argentina) in 2022. All greats and all personalities who have gone on to define the game of football with the magic on their feet, head and insight, but there is only one name against whom three World Cup can be written-Pele. This is the statistics and while football can never be understood or appreciated only by the title or titles that one wins in his playing days, there was something magical in the manner in which the King of football managed to weave around the beautiful game. 
All sports have had one personality or the other who have gone on to give it a definitive narration to the sport one plays. If Carl Lewis, Usain Bolt, Nadia Comaneci, Michael Phelps, Mark Spitz etc gave a new definitive understanding in athletics, in the pool and on the floor mat, then Pele will rank right up there in the game of football. Apart from the personalities who have won the World Cup, there are others too whose name will go down as some of the brightest to have adorned the beautiful game. Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini, Zico, Socrates, Luka Modric are names which will shine bright and will be remembered as football greats, but there is one thing missing in their cabinet and that is the World Cup trophy, a trophy which the Black Pearl won three times and this is something which is unlikely to be equalled. Manipur would not have registered in the consciousness of Pele while he was alive, but it is more than likely that his tales and his exploits on the football field must have influenced a number of home grown footballers who all have gone to make a mark on Indian football, starting from the veterans including Gunabir, Kiron Khongsai, James to the present lot plying their trade with different clubs across the country. As suggested in some posts which have gone viral on the social media, it may not hurt if the Government of India and the All India Football Federation gives a thought to naming one football stadium after the great footballer for this is something which can inspire youngsters and India definitely needs such inspiration in the game of football.