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June 2, 1967: Pelé and his club Santos FC take on the Leopards in Kinshasa

Updated: Dec 20, 2023


Kibonge Mafu and Pelé at the Stade du 20 Mai in Kinshasa. (June 2, 1967)

Leopards midfielder "Kibonge Mafu" and Santos striker "Pelé" at the Stade du 20 Mai in Kinshasa. (June 2, 1967) | Credit : Dr. Tiers

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The match between the Leopards and Santos FC generated a lot of excitement among football fans in Kinshasa. The Brazilian team, which included legendary players such as Pelé, Carlos Alberto and Clodoaldo was one of the best in the world at the time. Its visit to Africa was eagerly awaited on the continent. It was part of Santos FC's world tour, which included five matches in sub-Saharan Africa.

The match took place on June 2, 1967 at the Stade du 20 Mai, the largest stadium in Kinshasa. That day, President Mobutu granted an afternoon off to Kinshasa workers to allow them to attend this long-awaited match. The number of spectators present was estimated at 75,000. Those who did not make it to the stadium were able to follow the match on the radio, accompanied by loudspeakers installed in stores that still kept their doors open.

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The Leopards pose with Santos players at the stade du 20 Mai (Tata Raphaël) in Kinshasa.⁣⁣⁣ (June 2, 1967) | Credit: Dr. Tiers/Arquivo

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The game itself was hotly contested with both teams playing at a high level. Santos FC took the lead in the first minutes of the match thanks to a free kick from Pelé. However, the Leopards were undeterred and managed to equalize in the 76th minute thanks to a goal from Nicodème Kabamba. Kabamba, nicknamed "Rail Snake", was known for his skill and speed on the pitch. He was one of the most popular players of the national team.


Despite the equalizer, Santos FC kept pushing and Pelé scored the winning goal for his team. Shortly after, the final score was 2-1 in favour of Santos FC. The Leopards had put up a good fight and earned the respect of the Brazilian players.


After the game, the two teams exchanged jerseys and took pictures together, highlighting the camaraderie between them. Pelé, in particular, was full of praise for the Leopards for their skill and determination on the pitch. He also spoke of the warm welcome he and his team received in Kinshasa and expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to play in front of such passionate and enthusiastic fans.


This match between Santos FC and the Leopards was a memorable event that highlighted the talent and passion of Congolese football players. It was an opportunity for football fans in Congo and the rest of Africa to see one of the world's greatest players, Pelé, while celebrating the strength and talent of the national team. ⁣⁣⁣ It should also be noted that the following year, the Leopards won the Africa Cup of Nations.

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President Mobutu greets Pelé at the stade du 20 Mai (Tata Raphaël) in Kinshasa. (June 2, 1967) | Credit: Dr. Tiers/Arquivo

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