How Pele disguised as pilot to escape from Nigeria during 1976 coup
Dec 30, 2022 11:00 AM
Pele, real name, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, the Brazilian soccer legend who stamped his name in the global sand of time died on Thursday at the age of 82.
As a globe trotter, he had his share of risky moments. One of these was when he was trapped in Nigeria during the 1976 coup when Lt Col Buka Suka Dimka murdered the then Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed. It was like when Frederick Forsyth, the British novelist, was trapped in Guinea-Bissau, a West African country, during a coup.
Pelé was on a Pepsi-sponsored trip in Lagos, Nigeria, when that year’s attempted military coup took place. Pelé was trapped in a hotel together with Arthur Ashe and other tennis pros, who were participating in the interrupted 1976 Lagos WCT tournament.
The 1976 Lagos WCT, also known as the 1976 Lagos Tennis Classic, was, as reported by the International Tennis Federation that year, a men’s tennis tournament played on outdoor clay courts at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club in Lagos, Nigeria. The event was part of the 1976 World Championship Tennis circuit. It was the inaugural edition of the tournament, which was the first professional tennis tournament in Black Africa, and was held from February 9 to 15, 1976.
He was in Nigeria with Arthur Robert Ashe, an American professional tennis player who won three Grand Slam singles titles. He, as reported on page 6 of The Times (London), 30 December 1975, started to play tennis at six years old. He was the first black player selected to the United States Davis Cup team, and the only black man ever to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open. He retired in 1980. He was ranked world No. 1 by Rex Bellamy Bud Collins, Judith Elian, Lance Tingay, World Tennis and Tennis Magazine (U.S.) in 1975.
As recorded in “The story of Lagos’ ill-fated 1976 Professional Tennis Tournament”, published in Africa’s Country, Pele and Ashe were trapped in a hotel but left to stay at the residence of Brazil’s ambassador as they could not leave the country for a couple of days. Later the airport was opened and Pelé left the country disguised as a pilot.
It was like when Frederick Forsyth, the British novelist, was trapped in Guinnea during a coup. This was captured in a 2009 report by The Inquirer, entitled “Author Frederick Forsyth gets caught up in a real-life thriller in Guinea-Bissau”
According to the report, “It could have been a scene right out of one of his thrillers. And when his next novel is published, it may very well be.
British author Frederick (“The Day of the Jackal”) Forsyth jetted into coup-prone, cocaine-plagued Guinea-Bissau this week to research his latest novel, and found real-life trumping fiction.
Hours before he touched down in the West African nation, a bomb hidden under a staircase blew apart the chief of the armed forces. Hours later the president was gunned down, and according to Forsyth, hacked to pieces.
The double assassination of President Joao Bernardo “Nino” Vieira and his military rival, Gen. Batiste Tagme na Waie, shocked Guinea-Bissau and clouded this sweaty equatorial capital in the kind of mystery and intrigue often detailed in Forsyth’s fiction about assassins, spies and coups.”
Forsyth’s presence here inevitably raised the association with his hit novel, “The Dogs of War,” about mercenaries trying to stage a coup in a mineral-rich, African backwater.
“I didn’t come for a coup d’etat or regime change, but that’s what I ran into,” Forsyth said over coffee at his hotel.
He said he couldn’t sleep and was in his hotel bed reading when he heard a boom before dawn Monday and thought, “that wasn’t a car door slamming.”
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