His name is almost mythical now.
Pelé was once the most famous human being on the planet, transcending sports. Now that this legend is gone, there’s a lot of reminiscing going on — for example, about the games he played against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on the ground where Lockhart Stadium once stood
Who better to tell stories about Pelé than former Strikers player Ray Hudson?
“It was like playing God, playing against God in football boots was what it was like,” Hudson said Friday. “It was a dream beyond belief for a young man from Newcastle to come into Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and play against Pelé and Beckenbauer and Chinaglia and Gerd Muller and Cubillas, all of those players on the same pitch in Fort Lauderdale, it was pretty magical not just for me but for the fans of soccer in this area.”
After a match against the New York Cosmos, Pelé gave Hudson his shirt. By playing the last three years of his career in the North American Soccer League, Pelé gave a tremendous boost to soccer in the USA with his creativity and star power.
“Neymar said it right for me. He said before Pelé, it was football, after Pelé it was an art,” Hudson said. “He redefined the game itself and brought a poetry to it.”
Before the Strikers, there were the Miami Toros — and Pelé once played against them in Tropical Park. Imagine the greatest of all time playing in a makeshift stadium with a few thousand people watching. Pelé played the beautiful game in 88 countries.
“He was absolutely beloved in all of the countries around the world, and because of that warmness and generosity of his time,” Hudson said. “But it was on the field, it was on the pitch where, as I said, he bestrode the game like a colossus, and we were all just jaw-droppingly google-eyed by what we saw and I’m just so blessed that we had it here in Fort Lauderdale.”