January 26, 1967 IN HISTORY


On this day, during the period of the civil war when finding common ground as a means of ending the hostilities between the Federal military government and the Biafran secessionists was a very difficult task to come by, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, popularly known as ‘Pele” of Brazil landed in Nigeria with his football club team, Santos, for their game against the Nigerian national team. The Green Eagles, and the two warring factions (i.e. Federal government and Biafran soldiers) agreed that a 48-hour ceasefire was in order.




What’s more, the people responsible for the safety of attendees were the military officers from both sides, lining up around the Lagos City Stadium, weapons in hand, side by side, with the aim of protecting all members of the crowd regardless of ethnic or political division. In other words, everyone who attended the match had only one goal in mind: to enjoy 90 minutes of beautiful football with friends and strangers alike. There was no violence in the stadium, no arrests, only football fans that had been brought together by a shared passion.

And so it went; crowds celebrated as the game ended in a draw with Pele scoring two goals for Santos, both of which were met with applause from the stadium. Muyiwa Oshode and Baba Alli scored the Green Eagles’ goals. When Santos left Nigeria for their next match, within days, the fighting between the Nigerian government and the Biafran soldiers had resumed. So, on that day, Pele and his mastery of the football game, temporarily united people of different backgrounds and mind-sets, giving them a taste of peace and companionships in an otherwise dark and dreary period of history.

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