The ball with which Edson Arantes do Nascimento ‘Pelé’ scored the only goal of the game against Paraguay, which sealed Brazil’s qualification to the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, is kept in Asunción by a former Paraguayan soccer player who was taken by surprise by the death of the legendary player.
In the midst of the global sadness for the disappearance of Pelé, the former defender Valentín ‘Pachanga’ Mendoza, now 77 years old and who is one of the historical idols of Cerro Porteño, told EFE how at the end of the match he played on August 31 in 1969 at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, he decided to bring that ball with him as a “souvenir”.
“He was a player who was practically not from this planet and he is the best of all times,” said ‘Pachanga’ when referring to Pelé, and confessed, visibly moved, that the news of the death of the player hit him “a little deeply”. ‘King’.
Mendoza, then 24 years old, took to the field together with his teammates from the Albirroja team, who were received under the thunder of the more than 180,000 people who attended the historic Maracanã and who supported a Canarinha team full of stars and with two World Cups on his shoulders.
“The truth is that the Brazilian team at that time was extraordinary,” said this footballer who faced Pelé five times, three friendly matches with his team and two games in the 1970 World Cup qualifiers in Mexico.
Nerves, he recalled, before entering the field of play and measuring themselves against the Brazilians were felt that day by each of the Paraguayan players, despite the fact that the coaching staff prepared them for that situation.
“We felt good at the time, we had a good team,” he commented.
“We face them as far as we can stand,” he added, referring to that Paraguayan team that lost the round-trip matches against Canarinha for the South American qualifiers, the first in Asunción by 0-3, and the second, precisely that of the Maracana, for 1-0.