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Throwback when the legendary Pelé visited Uganda


Sinan Rajub SENOGA

“First time I’m hearing this, it’s news to me.” ” Why isn’t Pele’s visit to Uganda talked about that much? “

Those are some of the comments from some of the Ugandan football enthusiasts of the young generations after viewing a video of Pele’s visit to Uganda in 1976 on social media.

Well it seems the guys in the 70s lived a life we might never imagine.

Edson Arantes do Nascimento alias Pelé, finally breathed his last at 82 after a lengthy battle with cancer. He will always be remembered as one of the best, if at all the greatest of all times.

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Pelé visited Uganda in February 1976, spent three days here and conducted a football clinic of youth football.

It wasn’t initially planned that he would visit Uganda but the FUFA chairman by then, Era Mugisa, in collaboration with Kenyan Football Federation chairman Kenny Matiba, invited Pelé. The National Council of Sports (NCS) met the expenses for his trip to Uganda.

He arrived at Entebbe on February 5th 1976 and his arrival attracted crowds of people who came to witness an icon of the beautiful game.

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By then, Pelé had won three World Cups with Brazil and was playing for New York Cosmos in the USA following his rescinded decision from semi-retirement a year before.

On February 6th Pelé attended a football clinic that involved school teams of King’s College Buddo, Old Kampala, Kololo SS, Lubaga Boys and a central region select team of youth. It was him who officially kicked off the clinic with the first kick of the ball.

On his final day in the country (7th February 1976), he attended a friendly match between Coffee FC and Uganda Prisons at Nakivubo Stadium which was organized by FUFA and unfortunately ended up in a barren draw. He hurriedly left Nakivubo at halftime.

During his historic visit, Pelé shared a word with the national team – The Cranes which was soon competing in the Africa Cup of Nations of that year.

He also paid a courtesy visit to the Queen Elizabeth National Park, had a talk with the sports council, football administrators as well as the country’s president by then – Idd Amin Dada.

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Pelé gifted Amin a Santos FC jersey with his famous number 10. In a video footage shared by The Associated Press (AP), Amin was quick to ask the meaning of the abbreviation of SFC which Pelé answered, “Santos Football Clube.”

After three days in the pearl of Africa, Pele flew out of the country to Nairobi and later concluded his expedition.

Additional information from The Associated Press (AP) and the Observer (Hassan Badru Zziwa)

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