On Kia and Pelé (series: notes to myself)

They say there are only six connections between any two people on this planet. Maybe. My mum once danced with Juan Carlos I (her mother taught piano at the Spanish Embassy in Rome). My sister-in-law knew the Queen. And my brother met Pope Benedict XVI. I should be indirectly connected to a lot of people. But the most amazing link is another. And this is the story I wish to tell you.

21 June 1970, Mexico, world cup final. A memorable game, even for a child born in Rome in 1964. Italy lost against what is still considered the greatest Brazilian football team of all time.

But this is still history, not my story yet, which beings a year earlier.
In 1969, the Brazilian team was training in Rio de Janeiro. They had their headquarters in São Conrado. At the time, the place was far from downtown. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly, with people meeting the players, and the occasional BBQ. 

One girl, six years old, was often seen mixing with the team. She liked football. Her parents took her to see the game at the Maracanã on the weekends. Her name was Anna Christina de Ozorio Nobre, but everybody called her Kia. 

She was already very curious, and often got in their way. One day, accidentally, she got so close during a penalty training session that one of the players did not see her coming and hit her by mistake with a ball so fast that she passed out. 

Pelé was a family friend. 

In the picture, you can see him patiently listening, smiling, to a lecture given by Kia, who clearly thought that he had something to learn from her homework. They are in Kia's Godmother's house.

They all liked her. So they gave her a ball and two tiny t-shirts of her size, which she still owns, with their signatures (see below). 

The ball is long gone, having been kicked around by her and her friends during recess at school. And she wore one of the t-shirts so many times, that the washed names can barely be recognised. Luckily, she never used the other one, and got a jersey too large for her. It was Tostão's, who gave it to her as a present.

In the end, she was so popular among the players that they invited her to be their mascot. 

She was very excited. But that was another time, and a little girl flying all the way to Mexico did not seem a good idea to her father. So a little boy, the son of her Godmother, who also lived nearby, went instead. 

When they came back, they gave her this picture, from a newspaper, signed by the whole team. 

She told me this and other amazing stories many years later, when we first met. And so, the other day, with the sad news of Pelé passing away, it was time to listen to more Brazilian adventures, of a magic time and a magic team, in love with a magic little girl from Rio de Janeiro.

PS "Notes to myself" is available as a book on Amazon: ow.ly/sGyh50KfRra


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