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How a question from 12-year-old reduced football legend to tears; Emotional moment as football genius visits Cannock.

Byline: JOE LOCKLEY Special Correspondent

ASIMPLE question from a 12-year-old schoolboy almost reduced samba soccer genius Pele to tears.

Above the noisy throng of fans who had gathered at The Premier Suite, Cannock, to pay homage to the greatest footballer the world has ever seen, the lad asked: "How did it feel to win your first World Cup at just 17 years old?" His voice shaking with emotion, Pele answered: "It just felt like a dream. I had promised my dad I would bring home the World Cup when I was younger, and I managed to help make it happen even sooner than I expected."

The 75-year-old's "meet and greet" at the sports lounge last Sunday represented another major coup for its owner, Scott Murray, an entrepreneur who has previously lured such legends as Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard and Evander Holyfield to the former Staffordshire pit town.

Pele surely represented Scott's greatest scoop, and more than 300 diners were present to press flesh with the triple World Cup winner.

Some of the greatest goals of all time are among the 1,283 scored by Pele. But he insisted: "The hardest goal I ever scored was a penalty. No one should ever miss a penalty, but it was my 1,000th goal and I've never been so afraid in my life.

"I looked around me for my teammates for support, but they were so confident that I would score that they had already walked back into their own half to wait for the restart. Even after I kicked the ball I was sure the keeper would save it, but God helped guide the ball into the net."

From 1953 to 1971, Pele showcased his considerable talents at Brazilian club side Santos.

He recalled: "My mother who is now 92, thought I was only going to Santos for a trial until I rang her and said, 'I'm living here now'. I was just 15 years old."

The twilight of Pele's career was spent with New York Cosmos. Incredibly, he made his international debut aged only 16.

But there could have been one more big name club on the famous footballer's CV.

He explained: "Many may not know, but I was approached by the owner of Fiat motorcars to sign for Juventus.

"I refused to leave Brazil, even though the chairman received a great offer. I was also close to signing for Real Madrid, but I loved the club I played for so I had no reason to leave."

Pele never played at Wembley, which he described as one of his greatest sporting regrets, but he did grace Villa Park.

The 1972 friendly between Villa and Santos was watched under faltering floodlights.

His side may have lost 2-1, but it was Pele who stole the show.

Our report stated: "Pele eased the pressure on Santos by dropping deep to stroke passes from the midfield mud with the touch and vision only he possesses.

"Suddenly it didn't matter that Villa's generator was managing to power only three of the floodlight pylons, Pele was making up for the other."

Pele told his adoring public at Cannock: "I had the honour of sharing a pitch with some incredible English players such as Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton and many others.

"I still find it so amazing that I have fans in countries that were seen as rivals during the World Cup. I am truly blessed."

Pele left to a standing ovation. The skills may have dimmed; the superstar status has not.

The hardest goal I ever scored was a penalty. No one should ever miss a penalty, but it was my 1,000th goal and I've never been so afraid in my life


| Joe Lockley meets Pele at Cannock's Premier Suite and (inset) a poster for the event
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Sep 25, 2016
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