Pele cracks the first thousand

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“It felt like me against the whole world.”

That was how one Argentinian goalkeeper felt on Brazilian territory, at 11:11pm on 19 November 1969, as he prepared to face a penalty. He was not, however, representing La Albiceleste against A Seleção, or a team from south of the border in the Copa Libertadores.

Edgardo Andrada was idolised by the majority of the 65,000-plus at the Maracana. His Vasco da Gama side were drawing 1-1 at home to Santos, with 12 minutes remaining in a decisive match in the Robertão (a precursor to the Campeonato Brasileiro).

“The noise was deafening,” he recalled. “Even the Vasco supporters were against me.”

Puzzled? Well, a mythological man was sizing up a milestone kick.

Pele was on 999 career goals. The result was subsidiary to an ebullient audience. They had turned up to witness a 29-year-old become the first player in history to reach the four-figure mark by his own personal count, and Pele had employed his age-defying pace to win the penalty with which came a crack at it.

“The majority of spectators in the Maracana wanted to see the goal, but the Vasco players did everything they could to prevent it,” Pele recalled. “They wound me up, kept telling me it wouldn’t happen that day. But it was destined to be. Something had to happen to give me the chance, and it did."

Pele jogged up, stuttered, and attempted to pass the ball, right-footed, into the bottom-left corner. Andrada flung himself south-west but, despite getting a hand to the ball, could not keep it out.

“For the first time in my career, I felt really nervous,” continued Pele. “Andrada was in great form. I’d never felt such pressure. I was shaking. But it was down to me and... Gooooooool. What a feeling. The stadium exploded.”

Pele raced into the back of the net to seize the ball, as innumerable reporters whizzed on to the pitch to immortalise his reaction.

“For the love of God, people,” exclaimed an emotional Pele. “Now that everyone is listening, help the children, help the helpless. That’s my only wish at this very special time for me.”

Some spectators ran up to Pele and presented him with a Vasco jersey with 1000 on the back. O Rei (The King) put it on and did a lap of honour, accompanied by the masses, incessantly kissing the ball and in tears.

Andrada also cried – inconsolably. “I was distraught,” said the goalkeeper who went on to embrace conceding Pele’s 1,000th goal. “I was desperate the save the penalty. I didn’t want to be that goalkeeper at all.”

So overwhelming were the scenes that the action took around 25 minutes to resume. When it did, Santos held on to win 2-1. Nobody really cared. 19 November 1969 was all about one of the most symbolic goals in football history.

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