The day a Leinster Legend met Pelé…
December 7, 2009 12:00 am client
PELE’s whirlwind visit to Ireland was to help raise funds for Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin and for the Little Princes, Hospital in Curitiba, Brazil…
As part of Pele’s Goals For Life Campaign (Gols Pela Vida) the Brazilian mint has issued a set of 1283 medals – one for each goal of Pele’s remarkable career and schools, clubs and institutions have an opportunity to get their hands on these unique pieces of sporting memorabilia – each one coming with an a certificate of authenticity from the Brazilian mint.
The Goals for Life European Ambassador is Derry native Don Mullan, a best selling author, now living in Dublin, who is delighted to offer the medals to sports other than association football.
“Pele was chosen by the Olympics as the number one athlete of the 21st century and we’re delighted to invite rugby clubs and schools as well as other sports to come on board the fundraising drive for what is a genuinely noble and worthy cause,”
Sets of medals – bronze, silver and gold which are individually laser etched in a presentation case with a plaque describing the particular goal inscribed are available by pledging to raise €;2000. For a further €;500 you will receive a signed No 10 Brazilian shirt by Pele – (one was auctioned for €;3700 at the Burlington Hotel last week).
In an effort to make the medals more accessible, individual bronze are on offer for €;500, silver for €;800 and gold for €;1200.
“These are unique and extremely rare items which will only increase in value and the purchasers can use them to raise additional funds for themselves with the knowledge that their efforts will have significant benefits for the wonderful work carried out at the Little Princes Hospital in Curitiba by the dedicated staff,” added Mullan.
“We’d love to hear from Rugby clubs and schools and we can provide information packs on how others have fundraised and how we can provide a support service,” stated Mullan.
Don Mullan can be contacted by phoning 087-62389341.
For background on the Goals for Life Campaign log onto www.golspelavida.org.br
(ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN FRIDAY’S EVENING HERALD)
Leinster and Ireland great MICK QUINN fulfilled a lifelong ambition last week when he met the great Pelé at a function in Dublin aimed at raising funds for Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin and The Little Prince Children’s Hospital in southern Brazil. For the former out-half it was the culmination of 43 years of admiration, awe and respect. Here, speaking exclusively to the Evening Herald, is his story…
Whenever I meet current players I remind them to be generous with their time with children. When you’re young and treated well by a big star it makes such a difference. My late father was in the supermarket business (H Williams chain of supermarkets) and I remember once when he took me to a party in Howth where Tony O’Reilly was a guest.
My father introduced me to Tony and we still have it on an old 8mm film. He patted me on the head and he told me to go and train hard and be a rugby player. I was in De la Salle Churchtown at the time and it meant an awful lot to me. I was coached in school by Keith Wood’s father, Gordon, and he told me as an 8-year-old, ‘You’re going to play for Ireland’. But he gave me a word of advice that always stuck with me; ‘Never go home with your knees clean!’ and if my knees weren’t dirty from that time on when I was finished training I’d take water out of the sink in the jacks and pour it into the ground, make a mixture and go home and show my father how dirty my knees were!
I was obsessed with soccer at the time and I was a fanatical Manchester United supporter. In fact I was offered a contract by Everton when I was 15, and I played schoolboy football until I was enrolled in boarding school in Newbridge College. In those days you were locked up not just during the week but at weekends, so the only time you’d escape, if you like, was when you went up to Dublin to play a match and then you were brought straight back down again.
Because I had such an interest (in soccer) I used to write to soccer players so I received letters back from the likes of Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law who were all my heroes. It made my week to receive correspondence, be it letters or signed programmes or yearbooks. So I was always terribly aware of my responsibility as a role model when I was fortunate to go on and play for Ireland. But you need the inspiration.
In 1966 the World Cup was held in England and, at 14 years of age, my father organised an £18 ticket for six matches in Goodison Park and Old Trafford. So I travelled over to Liverpool, where my mother was from, and took up temporary lodging in the family pub called ‘Ma Boyle’s’ where The Beatles used to frequent and have their lunch with Brian Epstein. I stayed with an uncle, but I used to travel by train and bus to the matches. Summer days were spent going to the club shop in Goodison and savouring the atmosphere. I would be in my seat two hours before kick off just to watch the teams warming up.
And Pelé was my obsession because this was a guy who could do anything with the ball.
Brazil played Bulgaria in the first round and he scored a thumper of a free-kick from around 25 yards. The great Garrincha was fantastic that night and he scored the second one with the outside of his right foot, around the wall and into the top corner. It was one of the best goals I’ve ever seen. Pelé got injured towards the end of that game and didn’t play in the next game against a really good Hungary side who won 3-1. A guy called Farkas scored probably the best goal I’ve ever seen – a volley at full speed. Pelé came back in for the last match but they were kicked off the park by Portugal. But even still, you could see from his movement and from his pace over the first five yards how good he was. They hacked him down, they literally hacked him down and there was no protection from the referee. He was carted off and he said that he would never again play in the World Cup. Of course, he reversed his decision and went on to star in the greatest team of all time four years later.
I’ve met Muhammad Ali twice. The second time was a chance meeting in a lift in New York but the first time was when I went to watch him train in 1972 ahead of the fight against Al ‘Blue’ Lewis in Croke Park. He was the most extraordinary specimen I’ve ever seen. He was an incredibly charismatic and handsome man with these huge hands. I noticed that he had a shiny product on his legs and I asked him what it was. ‘That’s olive oil’ he said. ‘Always put on olive oil if you’re involved in activities because it goes right into the muscle.’ From that day forward I wore olive oil on my legs when I was playing and I never pulled a muscle in my life.
I took in everything that all these great sports stars said to me. I’d read up on Pelé and when I came out of school, age 19, I rang Mike Gibson and asked him about his training regime and he invited me up to spend some time with him in Belfast. I was nothing, a nobody, and he took time to guide me alongside athletes like Mike Bull at the Mary Peters Track. That day I learned to train against the clock for your fitness, and to work with the team for your ball work. But you don’t do both because you’re only as fit as the prop who comes in last! I always found Mike to be very honest and helpful. You have to have that will to learn and improve yourself.
Last week Declan Byrne invited me as his guest to a dinner in the Burlington Hotel where Pelé was speaking as part of a promotional tour in aid of charity. (Giovanni) Trapattoni was there too and he was like a God in the room and another man with great charisma. I was thrilled to be invited because to see Pelé work the crowd as he did was unbelievable. They showed some footage of him in action from his playing days and he was just incredible. There were a few butterflies, I must admit. Somebody mentioned to him that I was a rugby international and so I told him that I’d give him my autograph, but only if he gave me his! I was top of the queue for the photos with him and he walked up to me and stuck out his hand and he welcomed me, as he did everyone who wanted to meet him, with a smile and he told me that he enjoyed rugby and its physicality. He’s a small man in stature, but a giant in terms of his personality.
Next on the list? I’d love to meet Usain Bolt, Jack Nicklas or Tiger Woods. I was right beside Tiger at a tournament in Mount Juliet once and I said something to him and he answered me back, but he wouldn’t have known who said it. As he was about to tee off I said: ‘You’re very welcome to Ireland’ to which he replied, ‘Thank you very much. I love being here’. Most of the top players are class acts.
I’ve still got old film of Pelé playing because I’m that obsessed with him. True class never diminishes with time and I was fortunate to have seen Christy Ring hurl and Kevin Heffernan play football. The first Gaelic match I ever saw was the 1958 All-Ireland final when a Heffernan-inspired Dublin beat Derry 2-12 to 1-9 when Paddy Flaherty saved a penalty. Best, Charlton and right up to the modern day with players like Brian O’Driscoll – they’re true greats of sport.
To me Pelé was better than Maradona. He was more consistent, (he) scored more goals, he did more for the team and he had a far better temperament. Don’t forget that Pelé played in a lot of average Brazil sides over the years, yet he still scored more than 1,000 goals in the top flight. I saw all the greats play and to me the order was from the top; Pele, (George) Best, Maradona, Bobby Charlton, Franz Beckenbauer, and Zinedine Zidane.
Come to think of it there are a lot of number tens there in that list!