After saying goodbye to Pelé, the tournament in which he built much of his majesty begins


The mythical goal against Juventus at Rua Javari. The eight scored in the same game against Botafogo de Ribeirão Preto. Many records still unbroken today, obtained over 18 editions, in 11 of which he was consecrated as the top scorer.

Some of the main feats that helped Edson Arantes do Nascimento build the myth of Pelé were achieved in the Campeonato Paulista.

This Saturday (14), Santos will take to the field for the first time since the death of the King of football, which took place on December 29, 2022.

The stage will be Vila Belmiro, the opponent, Mirassol, and the tournament will be the one in which the idol established the foundations of his reign for the club, with ten state titles won and 466 goals scored, during decades in which the event was the most coveted by teams from São Paulo.

Before the ball rolls, at 8:30 pm, with broadcast from Premiere, Paulistão and YouTube (Paulistão), the alvinegra team promises to pay a great tribute to the star on the lawn where he most often scored in the State. There were 267 goals at home to Santos, one of the 28 stadiums where he left his mark in matches for Paulista.

“Pelé’s presence valued the competition”, says former Santos midfielder Clodoaldo, 73, to Sheet. “All the fans wanted to see the best player in the world. In addition to being a different time, with many strong teams in the countryside, Pelé himself loved the Campeonato Paulista.”

State champion on five occasions, four of them alongside the King (1967, 1968, 1969 and 1973), the former midfielder regrets that today the competition is not as valued. “The weakening of the teams from the interior changed the tournament a lot.”

Since 2014, when Ituano beat Santos in the decision, no team has managed to break the dominance of the big four in the state. Audax (2016) and Ponte Preta (2017) even reached the decision, but were defeated, respectively, by Santos and Corinthians.

This, for Clodoaldo, reflects well “the difficulties that teams from the interior face in order to remain at a more competitive level.”

When he played, it was different. “Juventus, Botafogo, Portuguesa, Guarani, Ponte Preta and several teams that I won’t remember now were able to play as equals, especially when the game was at their home.”

Even so, it was difficult for any club to face Santos de Pelé. In the State, Juventus (42), Botafogo (38) and Corinthians (37) were the rivals that suffered the most goals from him.

“Pelé made the Campeonato Paulista a show because he was a great artist, and where he played it was always like this”, says Clodoaldo, missing not only playing but also watching matches in the tournament. “I was at the stadium when he scored eight goals in the victory over Botafogo [11 a 0] in 1964. It was amazing.”

Of course, none of the players in the current Santos squad existed when the King starred in this show. Or when he said goodbye to the tournament, with two goals in the 2-2 draw with Guarani, 49 years ago, in 1974.

Not even the current coach of the black and white team, Odair Hellmann, 45, was born.

But that doesn’t stop them from wanting to honor Pelé’s history in the competition. “Our whole group wants to play for him. We would all like to give that title to Pelé. We know the difficulty of this mission. We will enter every game with the mission of honoring the Santos shirt that he once wore”, said the young striker. Dry Rwan, 21.

The King wore the mantle of Santos in 410 games in the State. With his 466 goals, he averaged 1.13 per match. In the 1958 edition alone, there were 58 goals in 38 games, a number never surpassed.

The only player in history to win three World Cups, six times Brazilian champion and two-time champion of Libertadores and Club World Cup, Pelé shone in all competitions in which he set foot, but he seemed to have a special affection for Paulista.

The goal that he himself considered the most beautiful of his career was scored on Rua Javari, in the 1959 State Championship, when, after receiving a pass from Dorval, he distributed four hats, including one to goalkeeper Mão de Onça. Off the top of his head, he concluded.

“That goal, without a doubt, was the most beautiful”, defined the King.

first round

Before the confrontation between Santos and Mirassol, at 20:30, in Vila Belmiro, the Campeonato Paulista will open with the duel between Inter de Limeira and São Bernardo, at 11:00, at the Major José Levy Sobrinho stadium.

Also on Saturday (14), Palmeiras will debut against São Bento, at 6:30 pm, at Allianz Parque.

On Sunday (15th), Corinthians faces Red Bull Bragantino away from home, at 4 pm, and São Paulo takes on Ituano, at 6:30 pm, in Morumbi

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