The man “with legs of gold and the heart of a child”
When Santos came to Barcelona, their stay quickly became a social event. Pelé was the focal point of the media and they treated the young player as if he were a natural phenomenon. He was asked about his footballing talent, his qualities; most of all he was asked about what kind of person he was: the kind life he lived, how he dealt with fame and popularity, if he had a girlfriend, what kind of women he liked, if he smoked, etc. The personal portrait of the Pelé’s personality added context to how the journalist’s saw him, and it led one reporter to describe the Brazilian as a man “with legs of gold and the heart of a child.” Pelé played at the Camp Nou but he didn’t manage to score, but he returned after the match to see the stadium empty and to feel its majesty. He was more than happy to allow photographers to take photographs of him reading a sticker book made by Kubala to show children how to play the game. It was one legendary player recognizing the footballing value of another.
FC Barcelona will face Santos FC in the final of the Club World Cup this Sunday. The Catalans and Brazilians will battle it out to see who will officially be crowned the best team in the world. Curiously enough, at the beginning of the 60s, a dominant Santos FC was no stranger to this competition.
In 1962, Santos had won the Brazil Cup, the Campeonato Paulista, the Copa Libertadores and the Intercontinental Cup. Furthermore, the Brazilian national side won the World Cup that same year. In the following season, Santos went on to win the Copa Brazil, the Libertadores and the Intercontinental Cup once again.
Pelé’s Santos, without a doubt, was considered to be the best team in the world and it was common for the Brazilian side to schedule friendlies on European soil. FC Barcelona invited Santos to play an exhibition match on June 12th, 1963. The Brazilian side had played 150 friendly matches in the previous 6 years – 122 of them ended in victory, 18 in a draw and only 10 in a loss. One of those defeats was at the Camp Nou, in July of 1960, when Barça beat the Brazilian side by 4-3. Pelé scored in that game.
Three years later, 85,000 people filled the Camp Nou to watch the Brazilian side and their 22-year-old wonder, Edson Arantes do Nascimento ‘Pelé.’ It wasn’t Pelé’s best game, truth be told, and Barça beat Santos 2-0 with goals from Pereda and Zaballa. Santos was playing a technical game, but the Azulgranas were able to grind out the win. At the end of the match, Pelé declared that the Camp Nou didn't suit him, even though it was magnificent.
Barça will have the chance to follow in the footsteps of Barça’s 60s squad when they trot out onto the pitch of Yokohama Stadium on Sunday, this time however, they will be going up against Neymar and Ganso.