Pele and Diego Maradona made peace, even if temporarily, at a UEFA exhibition match held yesterday that saw the duo feature alongside Rio Ferdinand, Dida and Crespo. Pele called it “a moment of peace”, while Maradona deigned enough to call Pele an “icon” at the event even as the two shared a hug.
An era may have separated the 75-year-old Brazilian and the 55-year-old mercurial Argentine, but the two never saw eye to eye with decades of bad blood running deep between the two greatest legends of the game. However, Thursday saw a thaw in the cold wall between the two as they even embraced during a five-a-side exhibition game organized by the UEFA.
"I want to thank Pele, we know who he is and who he will always be. We need icons like him," said Maradona, reported AFP.
Pele also returned the praise saying, "The most important is the message of peace. Many thanks to my friend Maradona for this opportunity and a big round of applause to the players who have been here today.
"This is a moment of peace."
While Pele adorned the sidelines in the coaching role still in recuperation from a hip surgery, Maradona made a cameo appearance on the field. The 30-minute five-a-side match featured former France striker David Trezeguet, Italy goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi, Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf, Ex-Brazil forward Bebeto, Ex-United center-back Rio Ferdinand, Argentine Hernan Crespo and Spanish legend Fernando Hierro.
The match finished in an 8-8 draw eventually.
The two are legends in their own right with Pele winning three World Cups for Brazil in a career that spanned 15 years between 1957-1971, where he scored 77 goals in 91 appearances. Maradona, who burst upon the scene in 1977, scored 34 off 91 appearances, and led the Argentine team single-handedly to the trophy in the 1986 World Cup, but not before his characteristic mercurial moments on display with the “Hand of God” goal and the “Goal of the century” both in the same match against England in the quarterfinal.
The rift between the two reached bitter depths when FIFA tried to decide the player of the 20th Century through a poll in 2000.
The World body, without much forethought, decided to conduct an online poll to decide the issue and young soccer fans overwhelmingly, and understandably, voted for Maradona, who won ahead of Pele by a landslide. Correcting for the evident bias in the young internet generation of voters, albeit late, FIFA then organised a vote among the readers of the FIFA magazine and by an international jury. Pele won by a huge margin this time, but the damage was done by now.
Although FIFA decided to name both Pele and Maradona as the greatest players of all time, Maradona in characteristic fashion lashed out at Pele. "I had the vote of the people, Pele won by forfeit," said Maradona, and even accused Pele later of letting his former Brazil teammate Garrincha "die in misery," reported AFP. Pele retorted calling Maradona "sick".
However, it appears one of the greatest feuds in sport between players, who never faced each other on the field, has inched towards a peaceable draw finally.