Pelé and African football, a mixture of respect and admiration

Pelé and the Cameroonian Samuel Eto'o, in 2007. AFP - GIANLUIGI GUERCIA

Text by: David Kalfa Follow

3 mins

Pelé died on December 29, 2022 at the age of 82, a few days after the end of the 2022 World Cup and Morocco's fourth place during this tournament.

The Brazilian, who had announced and hoped for the coronation of an African team in the World Cup, maintained a mixture of respect and admiration for African football.


Read more


And I could not fail to congratulate Morocco for their incredible World Cup.

It's great to see Africa shine.

 On December 18, 2022, a final message was sent to Pelé's Instagram account, during his lifetime.

On the evening of the 2022 World Cup final, the icon notably saluted

the course of the Atlas Lions, fourth in Qatar


Last July, the Brazilian paid tribute to Senegalese Sadio Mané, after his title of

African Player of the Year

 : “ 

[He] has already won over fans from all over the world with his beautiful football.

And I am one of them.


See this post on Instagram

A post shared by Pelé (@pele)

Triumphal visits to Africa

During his career, the superstar has met African teams on several occasions, in friendly matches.

There is this series of three games of Brazil in Egypt against the United Arab Republic in 1960, during which he scored a hat-trick in Alexandria (victory 3-1).

And there is also this triumphant arrival in Algeria in 1965, with a goal in a 3-0 success against the Fennecs, two days before the overthrow of Ahmed Ben Bella.

If he has never faced a team from sub-Saharan Africa with the Seleçao, Pelé has on the other hand largely caught up thanks to Santos.

In 1967, his longtime club indeed visited selections such as those of Senegal, Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville and Côte d'Ivoire.

It was an experience that changed not only my view of the world, but also the way the world perceived me

 ," says the person in

Pelé: The Autobiography

, a book published in 2006.

In 1969 he also played in Nigeria.

Legend has it that the terrible

war in Biafra

, which killed more than a million people between 1967 and 1970, was interrupted for 48 hours for this meeting during which the "King" scored twice (2-2) .

The Brazilian Pelé during a visit to Morocco.

AFP - -

His admiration for the Moroccan Larbi Benbarek

From these experiences, Pelé drew an admiration for the continent.

In 1976, during a stay in Morocco, he declared for example: “ 

If I am the king of football, then Benbarek is the god.

 A divine compliment addressed to

Larbi Benbarek

, a Moroccan player from Casablanca who wore the France team jersey between 1938 and 1954.

Pelé saw the future of the African football in a big way.

On several occasions, he maintains that an African nation will win the World Cup.

It would not be a surprise if the 2006 World Cup was won by an African team,

" he said in his autobiography.

The king of football, who bequeathed his surname to generations of players, including the Ghanaian Abédi Pelé, will never have had the immense pleasure of seeing his prophecy come true.


Receive all the international news directly in your mailbox

I subscribe

Follow all the international news by downloading the RFI application

  • Soccer

  • Sports

  • Brazil

  • Africa