New Delhi: He might be travelling halfway across the globe to promote youth football through Subroto Cup but Brazilian legend Pele today declared that there won't be another like him and the man who draws constant comparisons with him, the inimitable Diego Maradona.
Widely regarded as the greatest footballer to have played the game, the 74-year-old Edson Arantes do Nascimento will be in the capital next week as a special ambassador at the 56th edition of Subroto Cup 2015 final match.
"There will be only one Pele because my mother and father have closed the machine! But seriously, every player is unique and different. Just like there will be only one Maradona, one Zidane or one Beckenbauer," Pele told PTI in an exclusive interview.
Nicknamed the Black Pearl, Pele has won one Ballon d'Or, three World Cups and scored a staggering 1,283 career goals. Pele first wowed the world as a 17-year-old by helping Brazil win their first World Cup in 1958. He went on to help them defend their trophy in 1962 and then, in 1970, led the greatest team of all time to victory in Mexico to win the tournament for an unequalled third time.
"I spent my childhood playing local tournaments where Waldemar de Brito, who was scouting for Santos FC at the time, saw my potential. The opportunity which he gave me at Santos FC changed my life forever, and I remained with the club for nearly 20 years." He said it was important for a country like India, which will be hosting the U-17 World Cup in 2017, to encourage youth tournaments such as Subroto Cup, which is organised by the Indian Air Force in New Delhi.
"Sports is the best way to encourage young kids to be active and healthy, and to stay out of trouble. Most importantly, it teaches work ethic. And youth tournaments are the best way for them to improve their football skills, learn from their coaches and teammates and also make new friends."
Voted the World Player of the Century by International Federation of Football History & Statistics and Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1999, Pele plans to share with the kids playing in the Subroto Cup a few tips.
"I am excited to meet the kids and share with them the importance of team work, good sportsmanship, respect, and hard work. Also, I want to remind them that football is not about one or two star players. The only way to win is as a team.
"This tournament is already a great opportunity to showcase youth football, and to show that India can stage an important international sporting event."
"My goal is to share inspirational stories and to give advice to the young players. I want to make a lasting impression on them, especially when they were not even born yet when I was a player. I want to share my history with them," Pele said.
The last and only time the Brazilian was in the country was way back in 1977 with New York Cosmos for an exhibition match with Mohun Bagan. "Ever since retiring from professional football, I continue to travel the world to share my love for the beautiful game. I have had the opportunity to meet players and fans, as well as the next generation of footballers. The family of football is the biggest family in the world!
"Recently, I was reminiscing about my trip to India back in 1977 with the New York Cosmos. With the growth of football in your country, it is a good time for me to return. I have wonderful memories from India and I'm looking forward to creating more memories."
Asked about modern day football, Pele did not delve but rated Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the best at the moment.
"And of course my fellow Brazilian, Neymar. We both come from the same club, Santos FC," said Pele, who, ahead of his maiden visit to the Indian capital, added, "I am blessed to be in good health, to be able to make this long journey to India. I would like to thank the Indian Air Force for giving me the opportunity to be the Subroto Cup's guest of honour."