April 20, 2024

Moments with football great Pele which Shyam Thapa will treasure for the rest of his life

Pele the greatest footballer of all time had come to India, more precisely Kolkata (then known as Calcutta), representing Cosmos Club in their clash against Indian leading Club Mohun Bagan.

Pele the greatest footballer of all time had come to India, more precisely Kolkata (then known as Calcutta), representing Cosmos Club in their clash against Indian leading Club Mohun Bagan

Pele the greatest footballer of all time had come to India, more precisely Kolkata (then known as Calcutta), representing Cosmos Club in their clash against Indian leading Club Mohun Bagan

Those moments which will be etched in his memory for the rest of his life. Indian footballer Shyam Thapa, savours his interaction with the world’s greatest footballer Pele on and outside the football pitch on a balmy evening in Kolkata way, way back in 1977.

Pele the greatest footballer of all time had come to India, more precisely Kolkata (then known as Calcutta), representing Cosmos Club in their clash against Indian leading Club Mohun Bagan,  Though, Pele was 38 years old,  he was very active and living legend. It was no surprise that all the tickets of the 90,000-strong Eden Gardens was sold out months before the match,

Speaking to Everflipnews, Shyam Thapa said that he had not slept for many nights when he realized that he was going to play against Pele. “I don’t know how to describe it—call it adulation or hero worship.. I was just waiting for the countdown to end,” said Shyam.

There was another problem that confronted Shyam. He was flooded with requests from friends and family members requesting him to arrange tickets for the match, “My lack of sleep was compounded by the fact that every 20 minutes my landline no would ring, All the calls were dealing with the same subject.

On the Day of the Match, there was not an iota of space inside and outside the stadium. People who failed to get seats climbed up all the tall buildings and even trees around the stadium.

Shyam Thapa also recounts that once the match started, there was a deafening roar –every time the ball went near Pele. “|This sound was not there even when we Mohun Bagan players had procession of the ball, Something which happened in the first time of my life, It was as if the entire 90000 plus spectators wanted Pele and only Pele,” said an astonished Shyam Thapa.

The match started on a rousing note for the visiting Cosmos Club who went into the lead following a goal from Carlos Alberto. But hardly had five minutes elapsed when Shyam Thapa scored the equalizer— something which he treasures to this day.

“No sooner had I scored the equalizer, I sat on the ground, completely overcome by emotions. I also was watching Pele’s reaction to my goal—he simply didn’t mind it, Worse for me, he didn’t congratulate me, All the same, it was a surreal experience for  me,” he said.

The match ended on a 1-1 draw but the real action in Shyam Thapa’s life happened during the interaction between both the teams later that night at the Grand Hotel.

All the eyes were on Pele and halfway through the party, Pele walked up to Shyam Thapa hugged him saying that he had a bright future, “That eight or nine minutes in which Pele hugged me and praised me will remain in my heart forever. For me he was the greatest footballer and a great human being,” said Shyam.    

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