FAIR’S fair, Pele wasn’t a bad footballer but as a soothsayer, he leaves a lot to be desired.
Way back in 1977, the legendary number 10 boldly predicted that an African nation would win the World Cup before the turn of the millennium.
Thirty-seven years later and no-one has really got close. Ivory Coast did come back to beat Japan, while Algeria were unlucky to lose to Belgium yesterday, but those apart the current crop have been dreadful.
The much-fancied Ghana huffed and puffed against the USA before letting a point slip late on, a strong Cameroon side were just plain poor against Mexico and Nigeria’s draw against Iran was the biggest snooze-fest since Phil Neville’s three-hour audition tape for the BBC where he reads aloud his favourite train stations.
The African sides continue to lack something on the grandest stage and though so many of the continents’ players light up Europe’s top leagues on a weekly basis – Alex Song, Sulley Muntari, Samuel Eto’o, John-Obi Mikel, Vincent Enyeama – there is no sign that any of the top African nations are ready to challenge for global silverware for a good while yet.
Pele has got form for bad predictions, though, and once said a young Ghanaian striker called Nii Lamptey would rule the world and inherit his own title as the “best player ever”.
Well Lamptey went on to play for Aston Villa and Coventry, and he was brilliant on Championship Manager, but he never quite lived up to the billing.
Pele also forecast that Nicky Barmby – run-of-the-mill England midfielder of the early 1990s who turned out for Tottenham and Everton amongst others – would become a world star to rival the standard bearer of the day, Zinedine Zidane.
I also remember him claiming in Escape to Victory that he could not return after the Germans had kicked him into submission – and then turning up to score an overhead kick after a sit down and a cup of tea.
Now that last example was in a film, I know, but it still counts.
All of the above is why I ignored Pele’s pre-World Cup assertion that Germany would be Brazil’s biggest rivals this summer.
“I fear every German player with my heart. Mainly Thomas Muller and also Mesut Ozil. These players could be dangerous,” said the ex-Santos man.
Perhaps Pele does know something about the Beautiful Game after all…