On July 6, 1967, the Nigerian-Biafran War—also referred to as the Biafran War or the Nigerian Civil War—began. Nigeria and the Republic of Biafra, a secessionist nation that had proclaimed its independence from Nigeria, engaged in combat.
The majority of Igbo-speaking Biafrans felt their ambitions were no longer being represented by the federal government, which was dominated by the North, and they sought to separate.
Following this, there was turmoil, starvation, and violence for three years.
Pele in Nigeria
Brazilian football player Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known by his stage name Pele, is recognized as having invented the term “beautiful sport” in 1967. He had already helped Brazil win two world championships and was close to winning a third. Since of his enormous popularity, Santos decided to embark on a world tour because he believed that every football fan in the world would be in awe of his playing. In January 1967, their journey came to an end in Africa, where they had games scheduled in Nigeria, Ghana, Algeria, The Congo, and Mozambique.
How Pele Stopped A War In Nigeria
We were asked to play a friendly match on Benin City, in the middle of a Civil War, but Santos was so beloved that they agreed on a ceasefire on the matchday. It became known as the day that “Santos stopped the war”Pele, 2020.
The two warring factions in the nation had agreed to a 48-hour ceasefire when Santos landed in Nigeria on January 26, 1967, for their match against the Nigerian National Team, commonly known as the Green Eagles. To assure the safety of all spectators, regardless of race or political allegiance, military personnel from opposing sides also lined up side by side, arms in hand, outside the Lagos City Stadium. In other words, everyone who attended this game did so to take in 90 minutes of exhilarating football with both friends and strangers. Few football fans attended the game, and no conflicts or arrests occurred.
We were asked to play a friendly match on Benin City, in the middle of a Civil War, but Santos was so beloved that they agreed on a ceasefire on the matchday. It became known as the day that “Santos stopped the war” 🙏 pic.twitter.com/W16wUQoN1O— Pelé (@Pele) October 19, 2020
So it went on. Pele scored two goals for Santos, both of which drew applause from the crowd, and the game ended in a tie. Shortly after Santos left for their next match, the Nigerian government and the Biafran army resumed fighting. However, it was Pele and his mastery of the “beautiful game” that brought people from all walks of life together, if only for a short time, offering them a taste of serenity and companionship in an otherwise grim and gloomy time in history.
Football has the power to foster connections, increase self-assurance, and support a healthy lifestyle. However, it also possesses the capacity to inspire soldiers to lay down their weapons and come together with perceived adversaries in honor of an athletic artist, one who serves as a reminder that beauty persists despite suffering.