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Pele to visit Kolkata after 38 years

56Football king Pele is likely to meet Indian cricket greats, Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar, during his week-long trip to India, which includes a three-day sojourn here, in October.

Pele will touch down in Kolkata, 38 years after he had ignited the passions of the football-crazy people of the city which later continued its tryst with the greats including Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi among others. Pele will watch ISL champions Atletico de Kolkata’s first home outing against Kerala Blasters FC on October 13, take part in a conversation with Ganguly at the NSHM Knowledge Campus, and attend an auction to raise fund for West Bengal Relief Fund, according to a press release.

“It is such an honor for me to be able to make this trip. India is a very special country and I have good memories from my time there many years ago, the fans were fantastic,” the 74-year-old said in the release.

“India is a very passionate football nation, and I look forward to meeting a whole new generation of fans while continuing to spread the overwhelming love that I have for this beautiful game.”

The Brazilian great will also visit Delhi and attend the 56th edition of Subroto Cup 2015 final match as a special ambassador.

Pele will be the guest of honour during ISL champions Atletico de Kolkata’s first home outing against Kerala Blasters FC at the Vivekanada Yuva Bharati Krirangan and is likely to meet Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar, the respective co-owners of both the franchises.

Confirming the development, an excited ATK co-owner Utsav Parekh told PTI from Moscow: “He’s confirmed to be the guest of honour for the season’s first home match… We’re all excited.”

Pele is travelling to Kolkata on behalf of the Multicon Group and then on to New Delhi for the first time, on behalf of the Indian Air Force, the release added.

While in Kolkata, he will meet with students and educators from NSHM Knowledge Campus, participate in a conversation which will be moderated by Boria Majumdar and then he will attend a gala dinner, which will include a charity sports memorabilia auction.

Pele had last visited to Kolkata as a 36-year-old when his team played out a 2-2 draw at Eden Gardens against Mohun Bagan featuring greats such as Shyam Thapa, Pradip Chowdhury, Subrata Bhattacharya, Sudhir Karmakar and Prasun Banerjee among others, on September 24, 1977.

The city continued its tryst with football greats as German great Oliver Kahn played his swansong match at the Saltlake Stadium, which later hosted Lionel Messi studded Argentina in a FIFA friendly against Venezuela on September 2, 2011.

Diego Maradona, Karl Heinze Rumminiege, Diego Forlan and Gerd Muller are among other football greats who had graced the city.