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Santos Futebol Clube: the only one to stop a war

Santos Futebol Clube e Pelé Guerra de Biafra

The magic that brings peace, even if for a while

Santos Futebol Clube of Pelé was capable of unimaginable things on the pitch, but in certain situations, this magic could transcend the 4 lines. This is what happened in 1969 in Nigeria.

Historical context

The African continent, especially from the 19th century on, became the object of dispute between the powefull nations of the time.

In this sense, at the Berlin Conference (1884-1885), under the tutelage of the German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, the limits between countries for the imperialist exploitation of Africa were established. Soon, the extremely extensive territory that sheltered, and still harbors, a vast heterogeneity of peoples and ethnic groups was divided.

On several occasions, these ethnic groups, often rivals, were forced to live in the same territory.

In the middle of the 20th century, with the decline of the European countries weakened by the Second World War, the independence movements of African nations began to emerge. In this case, Nigeria achieved its independence in 1960 and with it, several territorial disputes broke out.

Thus, in Nigerian territory were the Ibo and Hausa ethnic groups. The Ibo, part of the local elite, were originally from the oil-rich region of Biafra. After successive changes of power, the Hausa carry out a coup d’état and begin to exterminate the Igbo people, who in turn try to take refuge in the Biafra region and seek their independence from Nigeria.

In this way, the Nigerian Civil War or Biafran War started in 1967. The confrontation lasted until 1970 and it is estimated that more than a million people lost their lives in this terrible episode in history.


Santos of Pelé and its excursions

Despite historical teams from the 60s, it is almost unanimous that Santos of Pelé was the best and most spectacular team of the time, one of the greatest in history.

In the period, Santos was six times Brazilian champion and two times champion of the Copa Libertadores and of the Intercontinental Cup, but these numbers could be more relevant.

During the 1960s, Brazilian teams had state competitions as their main focus. In it, they competed with their direct rivals for the post of best team in the state. Still, getting around in a country of continental dimensions and still with precarious infrastructure was complicated.

Santos, for example, refused to play the Libertadores on 3 occasions only during the 60s. The reason lies in the complicated logistics of playing in the tournament, not to mention the extreme violence (kicks and even bites suffered by Santos players) and refereeing. dubious, to say the least.

However, all coins have two sides. Refusals to compete in the Libertadores led Santos to tour around the world. In them, Santos and its supreme star, Pelé, gained notoriety across the globe.

According to the portal Acervo Santos F.C, Santos throughout its history has visited 72 countries, covering all continents on the planet. Soon, Santos of Pelé became the best known team in the world at the time.

Santos and the Biafran War

In 1969, the war that started in 1967 had been dragging on for two years, leaving deaths, destruction and misery.

Earlier, in the same year, Santos had already visited Nigerian territory, in a different region. The population, tired and indignant with the war, especially in the region of Benin City, highly affected by the clash, requested the government that Santos and Pelé return to Nigeria. So it was done.

However, there was fear on the part of the authorities that the King of Football and his squadron entered an area of armed conflict, soon a ceasefire was established.

On February 4, 1969, Santos entered the field with Pelé and company and scored 2-1 against the Nigerian Midwest Selection, with goals from the stars Edu and Toninho Guerreiro.

Even if for a brief moment, amid the most devastating scenario imaginable, the people of the region could forget what was happening outside the Ogbe stadium. Even for 90 minutes, the magic of football, Santos and Pelé brought peace around the show. There, Santos paraded with peace in its white uniform.

Interestingly, Santos athletes were not aware of what was happening and only found out that it was a civil war when they arrived in Nigeria.

The outcome

Therefore, Santos left Nigeria and the war, unfortunately, lasted for another year, leaving the aforementioned consequences.

This text does not try to make what happened in that period in Nigeria playful, it just tries to demonstrate the ability that football has to provide historical events and is often linked with politics. This time served to appease, calm and ceasefire.

Santos of Pelé’s feats are remembered even today by the fans of the “Peixe” in songs sung in the stadiums and even released its number 3 shirt that alludes to the historic event.

GRCES Torcida Jovem do Santos FC

“My Santos is sensational
Only Santos stopped the war
With King Pelé two time World Cahmpion, the greatest team on Earth

It’s my love, first love, eternal love, Santos
It’s my love, first love, eternal love, Santos”

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Written by Vitor F. L. Miller.

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