Tributes have been paid to a Tolworth goalkeeper who has died at the age of 82. Memorably, he played just the once in the shadow of Tolworth Tower, in a warm-up game at the Decca sports ground, across the road from the bowling alley. But he did also win three World Cups. Footballing legend Pele,
Tributes have been paid to a Tolworth goalkeeper who has died at the age of 82. Memorably, he played just the once in the shadow of Tolworth Tower, in a warm-up game at the Decca sports ground, across the road from the bowling alley. But he did also win three World Cups.
Footballing legend Pele, whose death has been announced in a Sao Paulo hospital, was driven to Surbiton with his Santos side to do some light warm-up work on the morning of a match against Fulham while on a world tour by the Brazilian team.
As well as a stint in the outfield, he took a turn as goalie on March 12 1973 in Tolworth, the day of a friendly at Craven Cottage against 2nd Division Fulham.
Good Life reader Jonathan Quy supplied this snap of the great man wearing his goalkeeping gloves at Tolworth. Young Jon is the only one of his six-strong gang of friends pictured, just to the right of the pram, who was bothering to watch!
The Decca sports ground’s clubhouse is also in the picture; the social and sporting hub for the New Malden record company’s cricket, rugby and football teams, built in 1959. Rugby survives to this day, played at Tolworth Court, alongside the original ground which is now home to the Goals five-a-side centre.
TV presenter Jimmy Hill (who later became Fulham chairman) was in attendance at Tolworth in 1973 to view the Brazilians’ training session. Jimmy had hosted the BBC’s coverage of the 1970 World Cup, won by Pele’s Brazil, where the man himself received the Golden Ball as player of the tournament in Mexico.
Pele played in the friendly at Fulham that evening, and scored a penalty after being felled in the area by Whites keeper Peter Mellor, watched by a crowd of 21,464 at the Cottage – the biggest Fulham attracted the entire season.
Fulham actually won the Monday evening game 2-1, with Alan Pinkey and Steve Earle on target for the Whites. At the age of 31, it was the first match Pele had played in London as all Brazil’s 1966 games had been staged at Goodison Park, Everton.
Santos were on a world tour in the spring of 1973, playing a dozen matches, with Fulham inflicting one of only two defeats.
Fellow Good Life reader Steve Burniston was also watching at Tolworth on March 12. “It was a treasured moment,” he said, adding that he still has the autographs he collected that day, of Pele (pictured) and Carlos Alberto. “To see Pele and his clubmates up close was wonderful,” he said. “I’m glad I’ve kept that autograph book for nearly 50 years as proof!”
It was, said Steve, a magical time to live in Tolworth where, a year before Pele’s appearance, David Bowie had launched Ziggy Stardust at the Toby Jug, just across the road from the Decca sports ground.