Pele: How Brazil Football Icon Caused Ceasefire in Nigeria vs Biafra Civil War

Pele: How Brazil Football Icon Caused Ceasefire in Nigeria vs Biafra Civil War

Babajide Orevba
updated at April 12, 2023 at 8:21 PM
In this article:
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FIFA World Cup
  • Pele passed away on December 29, 2022, but his legendary status remains in the hearts of football fans
  • The legend caused a ceasefire when he and his Santos teammates visited Nigeria in 1969 during the country's civil war
  • It was gathered that the warring parties did not engage each other for 48 hours until the visitors left

Brazilian legend Pele passed away on December 29, after battling colon cancer following surgery to remove a tumour in September 2021.

He is widely regarded as the greatest to ever play the game of football, as he was diagnosed with a respiratory infection before subsequently being moved to palliative care when his body became unresponsive to chemotherapy.

Even after his demise, his legendary status remains and his life and times remain in the record books.

Pele, Green Eagles, Biafra, Civil War
Pele once caused a ceasefire during the civil war in Nigeria. Photo: Ferdi Hartung
Source: Getty Images

The legend once visited Nigeria in 1969 during the country’s civil war, and reports have it that there was a cease-fire for 48 hours to allow the then Green Eagles take on Santos.

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Having pulled out of the Copa Libertadores, Santos embarked on a world tour and visited some African countries, but the team arrived in Nigeria right in the middle of the war.

Both teams were billed to face off in two separate matches, with the first ending 2-2, and of course, Pele scored both goals for the Brazilian outfit.

Santos then travelled to Benin where they played another exhibition match against the Eagles, and the greatness of the fixture was so huge that the then state Military Governor Samuel Ogbemudia declared a public holiday.

He ordered the opening of the bridge that connected Benin with Biafra and more than 25000 fans stormed the stadium to see how Pele guided the visitors to a 2-1 win.

In 2020, Pele Tweeted:

"I always tried to send this message, as football player and as a man. One of my greatest pride was to have stopped a war in Nigeria, in 1969, in one the many football tours that Santos made around the world."

GOAL reports that Gilmar and Coutinho who were part of the Santos squad to Nigeria claimed the war resumed as soon as their plane took off as they could hear gunshots.

Santos pay tribute to Pele

Sports Brief earlier reported that Santos have resolved to pay tribute to legend Pele by updating the club's crest.

The Brazilian football club will use a crown emblazoned on its uniform as a tribute to the three-time World Cup winner.

The decision was announced by the president of the Deliberative Council of the São Paulo group, Celso Jatene in an interview.

Babajide Orevba photo
Babajide Orevba
Babajide Orevba is a CAF accredited Nigerian journalist and HOD of the Local Desk with over 10 years of experience in media landscape.He studied NCE Political Science/Social Studies, AOCOED.