The Beatles and Pelé are two icons in their own fields. The Fab Four lit up the world, changing pop culture forever. Pele helped raise Brazilian football to globe-leaning standards, winning three world cups and becoming a true ambassador for the sport.
Sadly, their paths never quite crossed. As the years went by, the individual members would discuss their regrets – and seemingly meeting Pele ranked highly on the list.
John Lennon moved to New York in the mid 70s, and entered language school to learn Yoko Ono’s native Japanese. As chance would have it, Pele was also attending the school, during his groundbreaking spell with New York Cosmos.
The pair struck up a conversation, and John Lennon revealed that the Beatles once almost met Pelé and the Brazilian football team – but red tape got in the way. Temporarily based in their native Liverpool during the World Cup in 1966, the Fab Four attempted to meet the sportsmen – but were rebuffed.
Looking back on this, Pelé once told an interviewer about his close miss with The Beatles. “When I was hired to play for Cosmos, in 1975, I signed up to study English and John Lennon was also there, studying Japanese, because he had met Yoko. So we met in between classes. Do you know what he told me? That in preparation for the 1966 World Cup, when the Brazilian national team was concentrated in Liverpool, the Beatles wanted to make a presentation for Pelé, but the command of the national team did not allow it.”
“It seems that Nascimento, who was our director, very strict, may God rest his soul, said: ‘That bunch of long-haired people are not going to come in here, no!’ And John Lennon told me: ‘We loved football, but they didn’t let us play for you’”.
The World Cup in England wouldn’t become a particularly pleasant memory for Pelé – injured in an early tie, Brazil struggled to adapt while England raced to become champions. He wouldn’t need to wait long to re-assert his greatness, however – Pelé spearheaded Brazil’s 1970 team, winning the World Cup in superfluous style.