How Brazilian legend Pelé halts Biafran War on Feb 4, 1969 | #NwokeukwuMascot
Remembering the iconic moment when football brought a brief ceasefire with the help of an all-time legend of the game.
In the vast tapestry of Pele's legendary career, there lies a lesser-known chapter that transcends the boundaries of sports. On February 4, 1969, the iconic Brazilian footballer achieved something extraordinary – a momentary ceasefire in the midst of the Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Biafra War.
The Brazilian football giants Santos had landed in Benin City to face a Central West State club at a time when the Nigerian Civil War was ravaging the region.
The city's lights were dimmed at night to avoid enemy bombings, creating a sombre backdrop for the historic event.
Pele’s teammates reminisce about the Biafran War:
"Pele's power was incredible," reminisced Santos' former player Ramos Delgado. "I remember when we went to Nigeria, and that country was at war, and the guys stopped the war one day so Santos could play."
Another former Santos player Edu recalled the eerie atmosphere, stating, "The lights in the city were not turned on at night. Only the hotel and the houses were lit. I remember I asked the manager why, and he told me it was to avoid enemy bombings."
|The Governor of the old Midwestern State (later Bendel state) Colonel Osagbovo Ogbemudia with Pele in 1972.
Pele's influence extended beyond the football pitch, and his visit brought about an unprecedented three-day ceasefire in a conflict that had claimed nearly one million lives. According to TIME magazine's report in 2005, both the Nigerian government and the breakaway Republic of Biafra accepted the truce to allow Pele's team, Santos, to play two exhibition matches against local teams. For those 72 hours, football took precedence over war.
Pele’s final words on the Biafran conflict and his 'greatest pride':
In a poignant reflection on the ceasefire, Pele himself took to Twitter two years ago to express his pride in the role football played in promoting peace. "I always tried to send this message, as a football player and as a man. One of my greatest prides was to have stopped a war in Nigeria, in 1969, in one of the many football tours that Santos made around the world," wrote the football legend.
Pele also recalled that he learned from his father, Dondinho, that football could be an instrument for good. The lesson to respect opponents and use talent for love and peace stayed with him throughout his life. The day Santos stopped the war in Nigeria stands as a testament to Pele's belief in the power of football to transcend boundaries and bring people together, even in the darkest of times.