Sheffield MattersThe Distilled Essence of Football
Brazilian legend Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé, is perhaps the best known footballer in the world, and popularly considered the best player of all time. Yet on a cold Wednesday afternoon in November 2007, he swappped Brazil for Sheffield in the north of England, to pay homage to the place where the modern game was born.
His visit to Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane was part of a celebration of the city's rich footballing heritage, and included special exhibitions in honour of Sheffield FC, offically recognised as world's oldest football club, and the first black England international player.
The first exhibition was the official opening of a display marking the 150th anniversary of Sheffield FC, which showcased the original rules of football, 'Sheffield Rules', the first coherent and legible rules which formed the basis of the modern game. John Garret from Sheffield United's 'Legends of the Lane' said: 'The rules are the Holy Grail of football. They have been recognised as the original rules, handwritten by Sheffield FC members at the city's Adelphi Hotel, now the world famous Crucible Theatre, in April 1857'. They had been sitting in the City of Sheffield Archives for several decades prior to the exhibition.
The other exhibition centered on the impact of black players at Bramall Lane - specifically commemorating the debut of Laurie Cunningham for the England U21s against Scotland U21s at Bramall Lane in April, 1977. It also marked the achievements of a number of other notable players, including that of the former Sheffield United, Preston and Rotherham goalkeeper Arthur Wharton - recognised as the first black player in English football. He played during the 1890s.
Pelé completed his visit as guest of honour at a special game to mark Sheffield FC's 150th anniversary. The fixture saw the club's players line up against Italian giants Inter Milan. Inter's side included World Cup winner Marco Materazzi and a young Mario Balotelli.
“I get everything from football… and I have to thank Sheffield” Pele
When you distill something, you are boiling it down to its essence — its most important part. Whether it's alcohol, water, ideas are even football, the distilled part is the most powerful.