Pelé ‘called off school’ 50 years ago this week in Sheffield, as thousands of students bunked off to watch the greatest footballer of all time grace Hillsborough.
After a miners’ strike doomed the proposed night time kick-off, due to a lack of power for floodlights, the 1972 blockbuster tie between Santos FC and Sheffield Wednesday was moved to an inconvenient Wednesday 2.30pm start.
However that didn’t stop 41,000 piling into S6 to watch the three time world cup winner Pelé do his thing in a 2-0 win for Santos.
One of the 41,000 was Robert Carlisle, 60, from Cobnar Avenue, Sheffield, whose headmaster at Ann’s Road Junior School, Heeley, had ‘strictly forbidden’ time off for the game.
However his father agreed to pick him up at lunchtime for this once in a lifetime opportunity, where the Kop was so full a 10-year-old Robert couldn’t see much.
It wasn’t just the fans who were star struck, he said: “Tommy Craig followed Pelé around the pitch for the last five minutes of the game so that when the whistle went he could swap shirts with him.”
However it wasn’t just fan favourite Tommy Craig who managed to grab a souvenir from the youngest ever world cup final goal scorer.
Robert’s aunty bagged him a signature from Pelé, when the whole Santos FC team shockingly came in for a bite to eat at the Bramall Lane Cricket Pavilion, where she was a waitress.
Robert added “I remember being disappointed as he signed Edson and not Pelé, until my Dad told me that was his real name.”
Rob Jackson, 70, from Sheffield, also shared a close encounter with Pelé from the match.
He said “I was sat in the south stand and the ball went for a throw in. I grabbed it and threw it back to Pele. What a memory.”
Philip Davenport, 74, from Penistone, also made memories to last a lifetime that day.
He said “It was a great game and a great atmosphere.”
Pelé had won Player of the Tournament at the 1970 World Cup just two years before he stepped foot on Hillsborough soil.