Brazil legend Pele escaped government coup in Nigeria by pretending to be aircraft pilot

Brazil and Santos legend Pele once sensationally pretended to be an aircraft pilot to escape a government coup while in Nigeria

Posted Thursday, February 04, 2021 by

Pele may be one of the best footballers ever to play the game, but the Brazil hero was once forced to pretend he was an aircraft pilot in order to escape Nigeria as a military coup ensued.

The Santos legend was on a trip to Nigeria in 1976 when a faction of armed soldiers attempted to overthrow the government.

Pele was in Lagos with then-Wimbledon champion Arthur Ashe for a trip sponsored by Pepsi.

Tension had been brewing in Nigeria prior to his visit in February 1976, and there were issues around the presence of Americans in the country due to the US government’s alleged opposition of the coup, which was supported by Russia.

Brazil legend Pele escaped government coup in Nigeria by pretending to be aircraft pilot
Pele was once forced to disguise himself as an aircraft pilot to escape a military coup

Pele, at the time, had left Santos and was playing for New York Cosmos, and had visited the White House to meet former president Richard Nixon.

And the Brazilian icon apparently feared his playing in America would be viewed negatively by the militia.

Pele was forced to head to the Brazilian embassy and hide for a brief period, and wasn’t allowed to board a flight to Roma that Ashe and the other tennis players in Nigeria at the time were on.

As a result, he was forced to disguise himself as a pilot to travel through Lagos and get on a flight days later after the borders were opened up.

He escaped back to America, but not before being forced to wait a number of days after Ashe had already departed.

Pele admitted when he was younger that he used to dream of being a pilot, and explained it was his dream when he was a child.

“To be honest with you, when I was nine years old, I wanted to be an airplane pilot,” Pele previously told Yahoo Sports.

“That is what I dreamed to do.

“That was my dream, to be an airplane pilot. I wanted to fly.”



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