“Don’t be so soft.”
My reaction to hearing that Pele was plying his trade in England was in no way a reference to the great man’s evangelical approval of Viagra. It was more an expression of disbelief at a story so implausible. But stranger things have happened this season - each new development at Upton Park for example - so I felt compelled to consider the possibilities.
Perhaps Chelsea had invested their fortune in a time-travelling contraption, enabling the Special One to assemble of team of legends - galacticos across the ages - all at their peak. Visitors to Stamford Bridge would marvel at Pele and Maradona lining up alongside the likes of Puskas, Cruyff and even Billy Whitehurst. It would almost justify the admission fee.
The prime suspects, however, were Garforth Town. They would sign the present day, 66 year old Brazilian in a flash. After all, in November 2004 they persuaded Socrates to make a cameo appearance in the Northern Counties East League Premier Division. That’s right, Socrates, the medically-qualified, chain-smoking Che Guevara look-a-like style-meister who, with the grace and athleticism of a gazelle, choreographed and captained those beguiling Brazilians of 1982.
The interest generated by the 2004 version was substantial; so too, sadly, was our hero’s frame. Now with the grace and athleticism of a moose, he lasted little more than 10 minutes, most of which he spent gasping like a freshly landed fish. Whether he then returned home or earned a big-money transfer to Newcastle United, I really can’t recall.
As long as Garforth check FIFA’s list of banned substances, they might enjoy better luck with Pele. Fuelled by Viagra and rampaging around Wheatley Park, the priapic maestro would treat spectators to his full repertoire of tricks: an outrageous dummy, a cheeky chip, a bicycle kick. Everything, with the possible exception of a lazy lob.
To my disappointment, I discovered that the man in question was not the Pele, but a Pele, a Portuguese defender signed in the summer by Southampton. This raised a question even more pressing than why it had taken seven months for this matter to come to my Premiership-obsessed attention: what kind of name is Pele to give to a child? All dreams of accountancy dashed, he is forced into a life of football. Unless then hailed as the greatest player of his generation he becomes a failure, an embarrassment to the name.
Isn’t life a difficult enough journey without the weighty burden of expectation? Enveloping and invading the mind, it influences every thought and deed. It suffocates, leaving its victim drained of confidence, bereft of creativity, broken of spirit, stultified. Just ask anybody who represented England in last year’s World Cup.Admittedly, European Cup winner Abedi Pele did all right, but imagine his achievements had his parents been a little more prosaic in their choice of name. I won‘t make the same mistake, and that’s why any son of mine will be called Sharon. Or Gary Neville.