How Brazil football icon Pele caused ceasefire in Nigeria's civil war

How Brazil football icon Pele caused ceasefire in Nigeria's civil war

Akan Anwankwo
January 19, 2021 at 10:34 PM

- Pele during his glory days touched down in Nigeria on a world tour with Santos during the Nigerian civil war

- The legendary Brazilian icon featured in two of the friendlies against the Super Eagles in Lagos and Benin

- Pele also revisited Nigeria with Fluminese where he played against Racca Rovers at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium

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Pele's legendary status in football is second to none and his influence in the round leather game has been unmatched until today.

The Brazilian icon once landed in Nigeria during the civil war and there was a ceasefire when Santos played two friendlies against the Super Eagles in 1969.

Santos pulled out of the Copa Libertadores - the South American version of the Champions League as they began a world tour.

How Pele's influence before Santos Super Eagles friendly brought a ceasefire in middle of Nigerian civil
How Pele's influence brought a ceasefire in middle of Nigerian civil war. Photo by Ferdi Hartung
Source: Getty Images

Their visit to Nigeria was an unforgettable experience where the was an ongoing conflict between Biafra and the central government.

On January 26, Santos arrived right in the middle of the war ready to play a match against the Green Eagles in Lagos.

Then the unexpected happened, there was a ceasefire for 48 hours where Nigeria played a 2-2 draw with Santos, and as expected Pele scored both goals.

The Brazilian club side also traveled to neighboring state Benin and played another exhibition against the Nigerian team.

According to Santos' official website, the then state Military Governor Samuel Ogbemudia declared a public holiday and opened up the bridge that connected Benin with Biafra.

It is understood that 25,000 fans trooped into the stadium to watch the historic match where Pele led his team to a 2-1 win over Nigeria.

And as the team left Nigeria, Pele's former teammates Gilmar and Coutinho claimed that the war started immediately as they could hear gunshots from their plane when it took off.

On April 26, 1978, Pele returned to Nigeria to honour a friendly with another Brazilian team Fluminese where he only played for 45 minutes against Racca Rovers at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna.

He was decorated with the traditional attire of Babban riga and Zannah cap by the then Governor of Plateau state, Air Commodore Dan Suleiman.

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Meanwhile, had earlier reported that Nigeria is regarded as a haven of talents when it comes to the game of football and over the years, the West African nation have put their name on the map in world football.

According to records on Wikipedia, Nigeria played their first official football match in 1949 against Sierra Leone.

However, the former Green Eagles' first match was against a Marine-selected team that took place in the United Kingdom.

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Akan Anwankwo