When plucky Plymouth beat Brazilian giants Santos

Stephen Brandt, an American with a keen interest in matches from the past, recalls a famous scalp as the Pilgrims took down Pele’s Santos.

Fans bemoan the early season friendlies because most of the time they are pointless or money driven tours to foreign countries. These tours do nothing more than give players playing time and potentially build the fan base. Ultimately, that can’t be a bad thing.

Back in the old days, before the Premier League was established and money ruled football, the South American clubs would tour all over the world. One such club which was particuarly known for it was Pele’s Santos. That’s where a lot of those goals he endlessly talks about came from.

Here in America, as I looked into games likes this, one stood out; against Plymouth Argyle on March 14, 1973.

This was the Santos side with Edu, Pele, Carlos Alberto, and Clodoaldo whom all were part of the 1970 Brazil team that won the World Cup. This is also years before Pele and Carlos Alberto would head Stateside to “grow” the game for a bunch of wealthy people who wanted their own leagues. Argyle ended up winning the match 3-2, but what happened during the game wasn’t a new thing, but it was certainly strange.

The Chairman of Santos had apparently just played a match against Fulham where the Brazilian side had agreed to split the gate receipts (a very common thing), and since Fulham took in 11,000 people, that was a fair split. Graham Little, the secretary of Argyle at the time, had an agreement with Santos for a figure based on an attendance of 2,500. However, before the match, when the club officials saw the crowd of 40,000 they wanted more, or they wouldn’t play. Eventually they did pay up, and the match started, but it certainly tarnished what was ultimately a friendly match to draw in the punters and have a good day out.

The goals were scored by Mike Dowling, Derek Rickard, and Jimmy Hinch, with Plymouth leading Santos 3-0, before Pele slotted a penalty home. The last goal for Santos was set up by a nice pass from Pele to Edu to close the final score at 3-2. Pele had made it known on the pitch that he wanted just a game, nothing rough like he had been used to. Plymouth certainly gave Pele and his mates a game, and one that Argyle fans of that generation have surely never forgotten.

What’s the most memorable friendly your club has been involved in? Share your experience below in the comments!

Posted by Stephen Brandt

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