PELE, to most observers, was the greatest footballer of all time. Unfortunately, the Brazilian passed away on December 29 2022 at the age of 82.
Celtic book author Alex Gordon remembers a tale in which the gifted South American features in his second newspaper memoirs, entitled ‘A Raccoon Stole My Thunder‘, published by Ringwood in 2021.
The publication is a collection of anecdotes compiled by Alex during his three decades in journalism with ten years spent as sports editor of the Sunday Mail when it was the best-selling paper in Scotland.
We hope it makes you smile!
PELE was one of greatest footballers the world has ever witnessed, the possessor of heaven-sent skills not bestowed upon mere mortals.
The Brazilian great had also been gifted another talent, it seems – the extraordinary power of recall.
Lisbon Lion John Clark was the assistant manager to Billy McNeill while the club were in New York in July 1981 as the players prepared for another gruelling season at the sharp end.
The Parkhead entourage were staying in the exclusive St Moritz Hotel in the Big Apple at the same time there was a shindig on the thirty-first floor to celebrate the release of the movie, ‘Escape to Victory‘, which was about to be inflicted on cinema goers later that month.
HAMPDEN HISTRIONICS…Pele has something to say to Celtic and Scotland defender John Clark.
Sylvester Stallone, good old Rocky 1,11, 111, 1V, V himself, and Pele were the main stars of a stupefying piece of celluloid set in a POW camp during the Second World War. Stallone as the intern’s heroic goalkeeper was as believable as Ena Sharples as Miss World.
Anyway, the great and the good of sport and stage turned out for the all-time clunker and the St Moritz was chosen for the glitzy bash to launch the film on its way to comedy heaven.
On the big night, John Clark found himself in a crowded lift when in stepped Pele. The soccer icon, known universally as ‘The Black Pearl’, immediately clocked the Celtic man and said: ‘Glasgow…No.6.’
It was a reference to a game Scotland had played against Brazil at Hampden Park in June 1966, some fifteen years earlier. And Clark did indeed wear the No.6 jersey in that match which ended 1-1 with Stevie Chalmers scoring for the hosts in the first minute.
POETRY IN MOTION…Pele threatens the Scotland rearguard with John Clark and Billy Bremner looking on.
By the way, Clark’s room at the swish hotel was next to another fairly well-known sporting legend, but the Celt didn’t see too much of his neighbour who hardly removed the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign from the door handle.
The Hoops’ No.2 thought it best to follow the instructions and keep the noise level to a minimum.
Ken Norton was the guest in close proximity. He had been World Boxing Heavyweight Champion in 1978 and had fought Muhammad Ali three times, beating him in 1973.
One of his nicknames was ‘The Jaw Breaker’.