'I had a little cry' - Sheffield United legend Tony Currie remembers Pele after legend's death, aged 82

Late on Thursday evening, as news of Pele’s passing sank in and the memories came flooding back, Tony Currie sat in bed, watching a tribute to the great Brazilian, and had a little cry.
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“He was my idol,” the Sheffield United legend said. “Him and Jimmy Greaves. They were my heroes. Fantastic memories. I remember watching him in my first World Cup in 1958, then again in 1962.

“Look at all the tributes. I haven’t been able to stop watching them because they’ve been on all day. Neymar and Messi, No.10s. Maradona wore 10. They all wanted to emulate the great Pele. I wanted to wear 10 because of him.

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“He was the greatest, for me. Martin Tyler was on TV today and said: ‘I’ve seen everyone, and Pele was the best’. He was the first, and he was the best.”

The Brazilian legend’s passing was confirmed on Thursday in an Instagram post from his daughter. He was 82 and a three-time World Cup winner, considered by many of his generation to be the greatest footballer of all time.

Pele had a colon tumour removed last year but was readmitted to hospital in São Paulo in November last month amid concerns for his deteriorating health. In 1,363 career games he scored 1,281 goals and became an ambassador for the sport after his retirement, coming to Sheffield in 2007 to mark Sheffield FC’s 150th birthday celebrations.

Tony Currie with Pele on his visit to Sheffield United in 2007 (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)Tony Currie with Pele on his visit to Sheffield United in 2007 (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Tony Currie with Pele on his visit to Sheffield United in 2007 (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

There, he was invited to Bramall Lane where he posed for photos alongside Currie. “It was the only time I met him,” Currie, officially United’s greatest ever player and a man who also wowed the crowds wearing the No.10 on his back, added.

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“It was lovely. My wife Liz was telling the story of how she sat on his knee! She remembers someone asking if I was jealous. “Does TC want to sit on Pele’s knee?”

“He didn't nutmeg me and I didn't nutmeg him but we got some lovely photos on the pitch, holding number 10 shirts and with the ball between our heads.

“He was a lovely man. He could probably get as angry as anyone, especially when he was getting kicked to death by defenders like in the 1966 World Cup. But he was a gentleman. It was lovely to meet him.”

Tony Currie with Pele on his visit to Sheffield United in 2007 (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)Tony Currie with Pele on his visit to Sheffield United in 2007 (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Tony Currie with Pele on his visit to Sheffield United in 2007 (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

One of Currie’s most memorable United goals was similar to his hero’s in the 1958 World Cup final, chipping the ball over Liverpool’s Ron Yeates and volleying past Tommy Lawrence in victory for United over Liverpool at Anfield as an 18-year-old. “He wasn't a Messi or a Maradona, who had the ball tied to their feet and beat six or seven players in a little spot. Pele did it differently, but he had everything else. Like how Cristiano Ronaldo hangs in the air … Pele used to do that.

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“I taped the tribute on Sky and watched it after our game at Blackpool. I choked up and had a little cry. And I’m choking up now, talking about it. It was lovely to meet him. We had such a good time together, just talking at Bramall Lane.

“He said: 'Tony Currie, I have seen you play and heard about you, you're a very good player'. And I said: Na, na, you're making this up. But you're right!'”

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