Gowthampura, near Jogupalya in the city, known as a “mini-Brazil” for its vibrant football subculture, wore a sombre look on December 30, Friday, as its icon, one of the all-time greats of football, Brazilian player Pele, passed away the previous day. Over two decades ago, the footballers of the area installed a statue of Pele to inspire them. Hundreds of amateur and professional footballers lined up in Gowthampura and paid their tributes to the legend on Friday.
“It is not like we come here for specific professional training. We just come here every day and learn,” said Arun Kumar, a regular football player. “Pele is the greatest footballer of all time and an inspiration to many of us. That statue has always inspired us, and we are sad that he has passed away,” he said.
Explaining the football craze among residents of Gowthampura, Arun Kumar said football was the main sport in the area. “In every house, they might not have food, but will have a jersey and shorts,” he said. The area is said to have produced over a hundred footballers who have represented the State and the country. One of these players, Basheer Ahmed, had played in the Olympics.
At a memorial event organised by Karnataka State Football Association (KSFA) to pay tributes to the departed legend, N.A. Haris, the local MLA and the president of the association, said a true tribute to Pele would be to mould an international footballer from Gowthampura.