• Says He Is The Greatest Of All Time
Former international, Felix Owolabi, has expressed gratitude to the late Brazilian legend, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, popularly known as Pele, whom he said inspired him in his illustrious football career.
Pele passed on at the age of 82 on December 29, after a long battle with cancer at the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo. The late Brazilian icon remains the only player to have won the World Cup on three occasions.
Speaking to The Guardian yesterday, Owolabi said the coming of Pele to Nigeria in 1977 was a blessing in disguise. To him, that visit was something that would linger in his memory forever, adding that the words he spoke concerning his football career made him an household name in Nigerian football.
“Pele’s visit to Nigeria was divine; divine in the sense that he prophesied into my life and it came to pass. I was playing for Raccah Rovers of Kano then and I can remember vividly when he was asked whether the team he played with had potential.
“His answer at that time was that he saw me as a potential for the nation. I remember he came to Nigeria with the Cruisero Football Club of Brazil in 1977. The team played against Shooting Stars, Raccah Rovers and the National Team. Pele himself played for and against the teams in each half.
“But that statement he made concerning me, which was captured on the pages of all the national dailies inspired me to get me to where I am today. I later followed his career and even bought his book. He was my role model because he was complete gentleman.
“Pele was also a ‘bulldozer’ on the pitch and a moving train. He possessed very good qualities and he mesmerised and passed through defenders at will. I watched Pele score many goals with bicycle kicks.
“The number 10 jersey was his exclusive reserve and today the jersey is regarded as a jersey for special players whose influence on the field cannot be underestimated. His popularity cut across the length and breadth of the globe. He was a great player of repute, who commanded fame and popularity,” he said.
The former manager of IICC Shooting Stars, while commenting on the issue of who the greatest footballer of all time is, Owolabi said: “We should not for any reason and on any platform compare Lionel Messi and Maradona with Pele at all. Pele is the greatest footballer of this century.”