In last week’s South Zone Intercol final, an SSFL midfield general scored a last-gasp “jaw-dropping” goal so audacious that for me it invited a comparison with the peerless Pelé. And this from a commentator who, in his most recent Wired868 offering, lamented the absence of genuine quality in the SSFL and dismissed the fare on offer as Sub-standard Stuff to frustrate Football Lovers.
Where Pelé missed, I told my good friend Ashford Jackman, “Pappy” scored. A Pelé junkie who scoffs at any suggestion that his eyes may have seen better, he was scandalised at my comparison.
But another good friend, Wired868 CEO and Editor-in-Chief Lasana Liburd, thinks “Pappy” has the talent to go very far—though not quite as far as God’s gift to football, Lionel “My Messiah” Messi.
Judge for yourself.
Shiva Boys’ Tyrel “Pappy” Emmanuel, who enjoyed a week-long visit to Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium last year as part of the Digicel Kickstart Your Dream Experience, produced a goal that left him covered in temporary glory and made a complete “Pappy” show of the Presentation College (San Fernando) goalkeeper.
The 2016 Premier Division champions were 1-2 down with the end of regulation time two ticks and three tocs away. For the Presentation supporters—and, more importantly, for Jabari Gray, their custodian—the 89th minute sizzler that Nion Lammy put into the roof of Denzil Smith’s net had seemingly meant a well deserved revenge victory was in the bag.
We are the South Intercol champions; let the party begin!
It did, a moment later. But it was Shiva Boys who were celebrating a brilliantly executed golazo.
With one eye on the clock and the other presumably on the Pres posse playing themselves in front of the pavilion, Gray was pressing forward to participate in the partying. And under pressure to get his side back on terms, playmaker “Pappy” prepared himself to receive a short pass, put up a prayer and pulled the trigger from the half-line.
As the retreating Gray fought despairingly to give himself a chance to catch it, the ball arched over him and curled in just under the bar. Presentation 2, Shiva Boys 2.
“Pappy” would put away his penalty. But the pressure, plus the profligacy of the other Penal penalty takers and one fine save Gray produced, allowed the Presentation goalkeeper to avoid paying the penalty for his post-2-1 over-exuberance.
I have Jackman to thank for setting me right with regards to the custodian in the Brazil game I was thinking of. It was a 1970 World Cup group match against Czechoslovakia. The Czechs had scored first before Rivelino equalised with a direct free-kick. Just before half-time, Clodoaldo dispossessed a Czech attacker and the loose ball rolled into the centre circle in the Brazil half.
Spotting the custodian well off his line, Pelé ran a step or two into the circle and fired at goal. Surprised, the beaten goalkeeper never even got close enough to jump. But although under the height of the crossbar, the ball was about a foot wide of the near post.
Jackman also pointed me to the incident which had caused me to get my wires crossed.
In the 1970 semi-final between Brazil and Uruguay in Guadalajara, Mexico, the score was 1-1 in the 2nd half when the goalie mishit a goal-kick straight to Pelé, who stood some 40 yards from the goal just inside the opposition half. Pelé swivelled and hit a thunderous volley back at the keeper who had to make a low save to prevent the ball from ending up in the back of the net.
“Ah, yes!” I said, grateful. “I should have remembered.”
That was the game in which what should have been the icing on the cake of a wonderful goal ended with Pelé laughing at himself. The Brazilian wizard put a would-be simple tap-in wide of the far post of the unmanned goal.
In the Internet age, few genuine football fans would not have seen YouTube’s footage of the outrageous dummy that led to that unforgettable miss. But football fan or not, how many of us remember the name of the goalkeeper who, embarrassed before the watching world by the gifted Brazilian’s quick thinking, would later joke that he had “done enough to put Pelé off?”
As Pelé comes haring through to capitalise on an inspired Tostao through-pass, the goalkeeper races forward in the opposite direction to narrow the angle by confronting him at the edge of the area.
The quick-witted Brazilian number 10 who, many—not including Liburd—agree with Jackman, is the best player the world has ever seen feints to the left but declines to intercept the pass. Instead, he lets the ball run and runs round the back of the wrong-footed Uruguayan keeper to collect it at the right edge of the six-yard box with the goal at his mercy.
The goalkeeper’s embarrassing 1970 mistake did not cost Uruguay. And custodian Gray would also eventually ensure that his error did not cost Presentation San Fernando.
But first there was the embarrassment of single-handedly letting Shiva Boys back into the game, well, with a lot of single-footed help from “Pappy” actually.
Still, Gray will probably take heart from the fact that, YouTube age or not, relatively few people can tell you who is Ladislao “El Chiquito” Mazurkiewicz, the star of three consecutive World Cups for La Celeste, arguably best known for helping his nation to the semi-finals of the 1970 World Cup, where the world sports media adjudged him the best goalkeeper of the tournament.
Despite standing just over 5ft 10in tall, Mazurkiewicz—who passed away three years ago—was considered one of the finest goalkeepers of his era by many of his peers, including the Soviet Union’s Lev Yashin and England’s Gordon Banks and Bobby Moore, who in 1966 captained his country to their only World Cup.
But Gray will also have to consider the fact that his name is considerably easier to get a grip on than the 12-letter, four-syllable Polish handle. And that to jog people’s memories 50 years from now, there’s no best-selling novel or blockbuster film called Fifty Shades of Mazurkiewicz.
All in all, last week’s Mannie Ramjohn Stadium events reminded me of a scene in Cecil B De Mille’s The Ten Commandments and I see in them a potent pre-election portent.
When Pharoah tried to show Moses he had magic too, Charlton Heston’s staff, turned snake, gobbles up Yul Brynner’s high priests’ staffs, also turned snakes. Answered though it was, “Pappy’s” prayer—presumably to Shiva—wasn’t quite as powerful as Gray’s presumed plea to the god to whom the Presentation players presumably pray.
But just as I don’t expect Jackman and Liburd to agree on Pelé, Maradona and Messi or all parties to agree on “Pappy’s” potential, I don’t expect all the pollsters to agree with my interpretation. I’m preparing for possible protests, particularly from PP people and opposition politicians.