Having grown up with one of the most unique names in the country because of being named after Pele’s birth name, it has been an interesting mix of surprise, fascination and everything football. From being asked if I play football to being expected to know everything about the Brazilian great, it is one that is certainly worthy of a tribute
Pele passed away on December 29 at the age of 82. Photo Courtesy: AFP
"Do you play football?" ask most people the first time they meet me, and I introduce myself and coincidentally I do play the sport. Living with Pele's name in India is quite dramatic yet fascinating. Edson Arantes do Nascimento, more popularly known as Pele, is considered one of the greatest footballers of all time. People who have followed his career trajectory and his fabulous footwork know much more about him than I will ever know. So, it is only obvious when I was named after him, that everybody expects you to do be a hardcore footballer or just someone simply knowing about his entire life. These people range from those who are sports fans or members of the Goan community (many of whom have or have had the name). It may be hard to be believe but I have never met a person with my name in India and meeting them would definitely be an experience.
Pele passed away on December 29, after being hospitalised due to deteriorating health conditions after his treatment for colon cancer. As tributes pour in for the Brazilian forward, who holds many records in world football, one can only imagine how it is to live in India, a multi-cultural country which at the same time has been crazy about the game of football for as long as one can remember. It can be seen in various parts of country including Goa, Kolkata and Kerala, where there is a huge Brazil and Argentina fan following, and the whole state is known to turn yellow, and blue and white.
What’s in the name?
In fact, on one particular journey to Kolkata, I was shocked to know that Pele had a close connection with the city more than just visiting it; one that I took personally and decided to research about. It came when the first question a person I met in the City of Joy asked me, “Did you know Pele has a home in Kolkata?” It only led me to read and learn more about this important revelation almost 25 years after possessing the name and calling it my own. Elsewhere in the south, it also became a talking point with sports journalists and football fans, who were fascinated with how I was named after Pele. They would expertly dish out technicalities about his game assuming that I knew it all but I would be dumbfounded and still continue to be so to this day. Many even resorted to calling me 'Pele' on occasion.
SEE PHOTOS: Pele: How the Brazilian football legend enthralled the world and India
While there were those who knew why I was named Pele, there were others who knew of Pele but never that his actual name had Nascimento in it because of the name he was popularly known by. Interestingly, research says that he was named after American inventor Thomas Edison but got the name Pele after his friends gave it to him because of the way he pronounced the name of former Vasco Da Gama goalkeeper Bilé.
Over the years, it has also popped up in conversations I have had with well-travelled people, who inform and trace it to Portuguese and Spanish origins. There were others who would simply fumble, make a mess of the pronunciation or simply choose to not take the name for the fear of pronouncing it wrong. In fact, one would be surprised but that while giving an interview, the interviewer was fascinated with my name and after being told I was named after Pele, it took a course of its own. We not only went down memory lane but also dwelled on how Brazil has managed to produce some of the best footballers in the world in the last century.
Funny enough, the connection with Pele came long before I realised he was considered one of the greatest footballers of all time. It was when I had to speak about my favourite sportsperson in Just-A-Minute competition and I chose to speak about Luiz Ronaldo, who was at his peak in the early 2000s. That’s how I became a fan of the Brazil national football team only to later realise that Pele was actually a Brazilian football player and is one of the country’s most decorated players representing the team at just 16 years.
One can easily admit that reading statistics is nowhere close to what one sees in the many black and white clips of him playing football. The fluidity, the speed and the finesse are other-worldly and one that most football fans will never get to witness in person but will live on through many clips, and his legacy that was instrumental in elevating Brazil’s name in world football.
Also Read: Tributes pour in: 'Inspiration and love marked the journey of King Pele'