King Pele receives key to the Georgetown
– arrives to special Guyanese welcome
By Michael Benjamin
Edison Arantes do Nascimento, most popularly known as ‘King Pele’ was presented with the key to the city by Major Hamilton Green shortly after the world renowned footballer arrived at City Hall amidst wailing sirens of police escorts and admiring stares from those too far away to touch the proverbial ‘hem of his garment.’
Shortly before presenting the key to Pele, Mayor Hamilton Green informed him that he was a special guest of this country and the key allowed him to go, unhindered, wherever he pleased. The great footballer accepted the token and then jocularly asked, “Where is the bank?”
While the remark evoked hearty laughter from among the throngs of admirers, most were transfixed by the presence of someone who had etched his name in the annals of football history to earn the sobriquet, ‘King of Football.’
Shortly after Pele arrived at City Hall, moderator, Hector Stoute relayed best wishes from all Guyanese even as he reminisced on the feats of the popular Brazilian. Thereafter, the few persons allowed entry into the compound of City Hall were treated to an on screen rendition of a tribute to Pele by world renowned singer, Eddie Grant. Pele then spent a few minutes affixing his signature to several footballs shortly before Mayor Green delivered a moving speech.
Referring to Pele as a football icon Mr. Green assured Pele that he was a welcome guest to this country, more like “a brother we have not seen in a long time.” The Mayor subsequently beseeched Minister of Culture Youth and Sports, Frank Anthony, who also shared the head table, to let the momentous occasion inspire him, and by extension the Government, to invest in the sport for the benefit of local aspiring footballers.
In response Pele acknowledged the warm reception saying he was happy to be in Guyana. Speaking in halting English, the football icon disclosed that his father had taught him to appreciate the gift of football but always remember to respect people. He said that the football family is the biggest in the world and assured all present that his visit here would serve to bring the peoples of Brazil and Guyana closer.
Pele is here as the guest of honour of the Kashif and Shanghai duo, Aubrey ‘Shanghai’ Major and Kashif Muhammad, in commemoration of the 20th anniversary celebrations of that organization.
While here, the football great would address a tight schedule that involves press conferences, a tour of the city and meetings with top government functionaries. The visit culminates with his attendance at the Providence Stadium this afternoon for the opening ceremony of the tournament and the opening games. Thereafter Pele departs Guyana at around 22:45hrs tonight.
Meanwhile, in a brief press conference on his arrival at the Cheddi Jagan Airport, Timehri yesterday afternoon, Pele said he was honoured to be invited to come to Guyana and noted the immense power of sport to unite peoples, hence his visit here.
He expressed pleasure to have the honour of two local football clubs, one bearing his name and the other he represented, being linked to him.
Sports Minister Dr. Frank Anthony called the icon an inspiration to many and all Guyana was honoured to have him here. Dr. Anthony noted Pele’s powerful influence in the sporting world, so much so that two football clubs here were named as a result of him.
And GFF Boss Colin Klass hailed the football icon and noted Pele’s visit brought out the football fraternity, the business community and politicians and expressed the hope that this visit serves to unite all for the improvement of the game locally.
He congratulated Kashif and Shanghai for their initiative.