There are few names that ring a bell like ‘Pelé’ does. Even if you are not a football fan (we will be using the word ‘football’ to refer to ‘soccer’ in this article) there is no doubt you most likely have heard about him.
They’ve thrown so many honorary titles his way, he probably doesn’t even know them all himself. Terms like ‘World Player Of The Century‘, ‘Athlete Of The Century’, ‘Football Player of the Century’, ‘most successful league scorer in the world’… well, the list goes on. Suffice it to say, unless they play football anywhere else in the galaxy, he is considered the ‘Greatest Player In The Known Universe Like Ever.’
And on the 3rd of June of 1976 he was invited together with his team, the now-defunct New York Cosmos, to play an exhibition game in the Santo Domingo Olympic Stadium against the Haitian team Violette AC.
But barely. Haiti’s national sport is football and Violette is no easy team to beat. The game was 1-1 until in the last few seconds Pelé (who else) scored a perfect goal, living up to his reputation. In the other football they may call that a Hail Mary.
The crowd went wild. 25,000 Dominicans had come to see Pelé do his thing, and they were not disappointed. They had paid between 1$ and 2$ pesos for their tickets. Even in a country that didn’t really play football, Pelé was a household name. Local football had been imported by Spanish sailors who played it to pass the time in the port of Santo Domingo, but it was still a minor sport.
The Dominican Football League had hoped to spark some more interest in the Dominican football, and while the exhibition game was a complete success, the sport never really took off, at least not as big as others. It is now the third most popular sport after Baseball and Basketball.
But Pelé’s goal in Santo Domingo will live on forever, making him also the ‘Greatest Football Player To Have Played In The Dominican Republic.’
Thanks to Balompie Dominicano for the info and the images. Check out their site for more info on DR football and it’s history!