Brazil and Santos legend Pele was once forced to pretend he was an aircraft pilot in order to escape Nigeria as a military coup ensued.
The Brazil hero was on a trip to Nigeria in 1976 when a faction of armed soldiers attempted to overthrow the government.
Pele was in Lagos with then-Wimbledon champion Arthur Ashe for a trip sponsored by Pepsi.
Tension had been brewing in Nigeria prior to his visit in February 1976, and there were issues around the presence of Americans in the country due to the US government’s alleged opposition of the coup, which was supported by Russia.
Pele, at the time, had left Santos and was playing for New York Cosmos, and had visited the White House to meet former president Richard Nixon.
And the Santos legend apparently feared his playing in America would be viewed negatively by the militia.
Pele was forced to head to the Brazilian embassy and hide for a brief period, and wasn’t allowed to board a flight to Roma that Ashe and the other tennis players in Nigeria at the time were on.
Pele returned to America after escaping the coup and played for one more year with the New York Cosmos
As a result, he was forced to disguise himself as a pilot to travel through Lagos and get on a flight days later after the borders were opened up.
The Brazilian icon escaped back to America, but not before being forced to wait a number of days after Ashe had already departed.
Pele admitted when he was younger that he used to dream of being a pilot, and explained it was his dream when he was a child.
“To be honest with you, when I was nine years old, I wanted to be an airplane pilot,” Pele previously told Yahoo Sports.
“That is what I dreamed to do.
“That was my dream, to be an airplane pilot. I wanted to fly.”
This article was most recently revised and updated 2 years ago