"O Millissimo", the story of Pele's 1,000th goal
On the nineteenth of November 1969, while the world's focus was on the Apollo 12 mission to land man on the moon, Brazilians lived an unprecedented historical moment, when football legend Pele succeeded in scoring his thousandth goal.
For Brazil and its footballing king, it was the perfect moment for a similar event, as they were celebrating the day of the flag that was designed and adopted in 1889, while Pele was celebrating his mother's birthday.
The goal was a gift the Santos superstar bestowed upon the proud home fans of the world's best player and goalscorer.
As for the mother, Maria Celeste Arantes, she watched her talented 29-year-old son enter football history.
Fate played its part, and three days ago, Pele failed to reach this symbolic barrier in Salvador.
A penalty kick, taken by the No. 10 player in Santos, hit the Bahia crossbar, then was snatched away by his teammate Jair Bala, to score the expected goal.
Fortunately for Pele, the Maracana stadium was the scene of Santos' confrontation with its host Vasco de Gama, a year before Pele won the World Cup for the third time with his country in an unprecedented achievement.
Black and white cameras documented a historic moment in front of eighty thousand enthusiastic spectators, despite the rain that did not prevent them from preparing for a solemn celebration.
It didn't take long for the King to threaten his opponent's net in the first half.
But the Argentine goalkeeper Edgardo Andrada, who was accused years later of carrying out assassinations on behalf of the military rule in his country (1976-1983), first removed a ball played by "O Rei" with the outer part of his shoe.
Then the crossbar intervened to deny him the registration.
Pele heard his opponents say, "You won't score today."
Among them was Rene, who scored against his own team.
The match was nearing the end when Pele was fouled inside the penalty area in the 78th minute. "The penalty kick was a cowardly way to score," he later wrote in his autobiography.
Vasco players tried to delay maturity.
They talked to the shooter, trying to distract him, while Pele consoled the player who made the mistake, putting his hand on his shoulder.
The number A is on the back
Hands on the waist, he slowed down at the last moment (paradinya) and then fired his right hand to the glory ball.
It was not difficult to translate it this time, although Andrade fell on it.
Excitement reached its climax when the ball hit the net, "Gooooooooooooooooooooooooool".
As Pele entered the goal to catch the ball from the heart of the net, dozens of photographers, journalists and fans invaded the green lawn to celebrate with their hero.
He ended up shoulder-to-shoulder with the ball always in his hands, and a bunch of mics tried to elicit the first reaction after his accomplishment.
His stunned teammates watched what was happening from the halfway line, until Pele escaped from the crowd and fell into their arms, player by player.
The goalkeeper picked him up again as he said tersely, dedicating his goal "to the poor children of Brazil".
At that time, he received a shirt with the number 1,000 printed on the back. He wore it at the start of an honorary circle that lasted about a third of an hour, to the sound of the continuous Maracana chants.
The referee had to complete the match, but the final minutes did not matter much.
The fans left the stands, after seeing history being written with their own eyes.
Pele rose to the heights of glory.
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