Cape Verde has officially become the first nation to bring Gianni’s wish to life by renaming their National Stadium after celebrated footballer Edson Arantes do Nascimento aka Pele who died on the 29th of December 2022.
While addressing mourners at Pele’s memorial service in Brazil, Fifa President Gianni Infantino hinted at having every country around the world name a stadium after the Legend, a statement that was received with mixed feelings.
Sportsmen have -on numerous occasions- been honoured through different gestures like awards, wall of Fame badges, knighthood honours in the United Kingdom, among others and all these are meant to cement their influence on the industry.
Muhammad Ali’s influence in the 20th Century exceeded past Boxing that he was at some point said to have been “bigger than sports” by some publications.
“The Greatest Basketball Player of All Time” Michael Jeffrey Jordan has a jumpman silhouette of him on Nike’s Air Jordan sneakers and his name popped up as options to have him as the model on the NBA logo.
Talking of the NBA logo and Basketball, Kobe Bryant nicknamed the “Black Mamba” lost his life in a helicopter crash on January 26th in 2020, in Calabasas California and moments after his demise, a petition was run by his loyalists to have him replace Jerry West as the silhouette on the NBA League Logo.
The move was not a successful one because of commercial and copyright reasons but the ball legend was later honored with a revamped All-Star MVP trophy named after him and also became the first Athlete to have a spot on the Hollywood’s legendary Walk of Fame.
Footballers trade their ply in Stadiums amidst chanting fans and different clubs and nations have named stands, pavilions, and whole facilities after both fallen and living legends.
The Phillip Omondi Stadium -home to KCCA FC- in Kampala is named after their Club Legend Phillip Omondi, who is said to have been one of the greatest midfielders of his generation by faithfuls.
The Puskas Arena in Hungary named after Hungarian legend Ferenc Puskas, the iconic ‘San Siro’, named after two-time World Cup winner Giuseppe Meazza, and the Estadio Diego Armando Maradona in both Italy and Argentina that were named after another football icon Diego Maradona.
Naming a stadium after the legendary Pele is not the problem. The real flex is how much sports has become commercial and sponsorship of stadiums has become a common occurrence with sponsors targeting naming rights of the stadiums.
One of the reasons -given by Cape Verde’s Prime Minister- to rename their National Stadium is that “Cape Verde and Brazil have a history and culture that go hand in hand, considering they are two sister countries, linked by language and very similar identities.”
How much does the rest of the World have in common with Brazil and Pele?? This will be visible from how he is honored by the different countries.
Aljazeera reports Pele was laid to rest in a 200sq metre mausoleum, and His burial place will be decorated like a football stadium, with images of his career highlights.