Homage – Pelé in Japan, the only match of the king in the land of the rising sun

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The king of football, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pelé, died yesterday. In honor of the greatest football player of all time, we'll show you some curiosities related to Pelé's trips to Japan.

In this article, you will find out about Pelé's relationship with the Japanese and also details about the king's only match in the land of the rising sun as a professional athlete. In the land of the samurai, Pelé is known as Sakka no Ousama – サッカーの王様 [さっかーのおうさま], which in Japanese means “The King of Football”.

Homage - pelé in japan, the king's only match in the land of the rising sun
Homage – Pelé in Japan, the only match of the king in the land of the rising sun

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Santos x Japanese National Team in 1972 – Pelé in Japan

Video credits: Wesley Miranda. Channel the greatest of all times

Pelé's only game wearing the Santista shirt in Japanese territory was more than 50 years ago, precisely on May 26, 1972. At the time, Santos FC faced the Japan professional football team, in a friendly held in Tokyo, in the late Olympic Stadium, the same stage of the 1964 Olympic Games.

The match was part of an excursion by the Santos team, ending with the score of 3 x 0 for the alvinegro Praiano, with two goals from Pelé and one from Jáder.

The lineup of Peixe for the historic confrontation was: Cláudio (Cejas), Orlando Lelé, Vicente (Paulo), Altivo and Zé Carlos; Léo Oliveira and Nenê; Jader (Ferreira), Alcindo (Adílson), Pelé (Turcão) and Edu. Technician: Jair Rosa Pinto.

The visit to Japan after the great earthquake of 2011

After the terrible earthquakes in Tohoku in 2011 (earthquake followed by tsunamis and subsequent meltdown of a nuclear power plant), Pelé represented Brazilian solidarity very well by visiting Japan, going to the city of Natori. It was extremely well received by the Japanese at the time, being surrounded by children from a school that withstood the impacts of the earthquakes.

“I came to bring words of encouragement, as a representative of the Brazilian people,” said the idol at Fujigaoka Elementary School in Natori, in Miyagi Prefecture.

During his stay, the king of football also went to a 6-meter-high hill, where a Shinto temple was located that was carried away by the tsunami and today has become a memorial in honor of the victims.

Pelé is also much loved in Japan.

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Pele and Kunishige Kamamoto

Pelé was mainly responsible for popularizing Brazilian football in the world. With Zico, he became the main reference for Japanese athletes in the sport.

Kunishige Kamamoto, considered the greatest player in the history of Japanese football, met Pelé during an international friendly between Cosmos and Estrelas doJapan (Japan All-Stars), held in the city of Kobe, on September 23, 1976.

Homage - pelé in japan, the king's only match in the land of the rising sun
Kunishige Kamamoto (Japan All-Stars) and Pele ( NYCosmos) Japan All-Stars 0-0 NYCosmos at Kobe in Japan on 23 Sep1976 Photo by Masahide Tomikoshi / TOMIKOSHI PHOTOGRAPHY

Read too: Kamamoto, Nakata and Nakamura: the legends of Japanese football/soccer

Repercussion of the news in Japan

Several television, print and virtual media newspapers echoed the news of the king's death with regret. NHK, one of the main communication vehicles in Japan, published an extensive article about the fact, including words of condolences from Kunishige Kamamoto. In the words of the former Japanese player, coach and politician:

“He was an exceptional athlete. My condolences and thank you so much for making the children of the world dream” (Literal translation).

The Japanese BBC, the local Yahoo portal and the renowned Nikkan Sports newspaper [日刊スポーツ; nikkan supootsu] also highlighted their stories about the world idol.

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