THE BEAUTIFUL GAME
THE BEAUTIFUL GAME
When I was Edson Arantes Do Nascimento,
It seemed everyone knew my name.
From the back streets of Sao Paulo, to Cradley council estate,
We played the beautiful game, in the shadow of electricity pylon;
Its arms outstretched in pose of Christ in Corcovado.
The Maracanã, transposed from Rio to cul-de-sac,
Lamplight illuminating the stadium.
When reputation preceded my arrival in local parks,
Long after dark, matches of world significance
Were played with feverish intensity,
Between teams of up to 15 a-side; battling
Through fading light, as park gates locked around us.
There was no Portuguese in the language we spoke,
Our folk were black-country,
Though my skin tone suggested otherwise.
The ‘Black Pearl’ and I, thereby, having more than skill in common.
His colour, among global icons, a beacon of our time,
Underlined by grainy black and white pictures,
Broadcast by Pathe’ News, to the Royal Picture House.
Our fanaticism fuelled by the beat of Bossa Nova rhythms
Filtering through the screen, lifting the veil
Between audience and spectacle.
Breathless sighs, palpable, from Cradley Heath to Brazil.
And me, content to be defined in his reflection,
As, on our way home, I was bequeathed the name,
And henceforth known, as ‘Pele’, by a fraternity
Of friends and foe alike.
My real name subsumed; a secondary ‘nom-de-plume’.
We eagerly anticipated his coming,
Welcoming the day he came to play on our shore,
Only to be battered by Bulgarian boots;
Portugal’s Joao Morais applying the final coup de grace.
His part in the greatest spectacle on the planet, cut short,
Our disappointment left undimmed by celebrations that followed.
History records who won,
Heroes emerging with English names;
The beautiful game now played to a different beat.
Someone else’s dream, to be lived out in another street