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Pele’s Magic, Match and Mediation

The 2022 World Cup pageant is being staged in Doha of Qatar, and all interests and attentions are riveted to the swanky stadiums at Doha where the football geniuses like Messi and Christiano Ronaldo are displaying their soccer skills at their best to hold the much coveted World Cup. The World Cup final will take place at a stadium in Lusail – around 100,000-seat arena- meant to evoke a handcrafted golden bowl by the third week of this month.  Lusail downtown where the stadium is located, a report says, cost around US$ 45 billion to build. The stadium is billed as one of the largest undertakings in the Middle East. Lusail is promoted as “a beacon of smart living made with a modernist imaginary for the elite.”

Legitimate goals

Football game that evokes interests of young and adults, male and female alike has caught the imagination of people across all the continents. It is based on the team work and its goal is a kind of the negotiated solution of complex problems. More people today play and watch football than any other sport. In this game, all 11 players of a team must possess similar type of skills both – defensive and offensive.  As long as the ball is in play and no infringements of the rules should be made which help the players score legitimate goals. Goals can be scored by play action, penalty kicks or direct free kicks. It is continuous and does not lend itself to being stopped or broken down into a series of component plays.     

This article culls from an interesting write up  authored by Luis Miguel Diaz carried by in its recent issue that focuses on the relationship between negotiation and mediation and football with reference to Pele – the legendary football player of all times. 

According to Luiz Miguel Diaz, no sport evokes the intuitive drive for team work as football player, where all 11 players of a team must cooperate and work together in rhyme and rhythm. It requires improvisation from the players to solve the strategic necessities of the football field.   It is said that no other player has shown cooperative and collaborative team skills than the   Brazilian football legend Pele which conflict negotiators and mediators can learn for successful negotiation and mediation process to reach to a settled outcome.

Pele was so popular that he was responsible for a 48-hour cease-fire during a civil war in Nigeria, so people could watch him playing an exhibition match in 1967; the war resumed in full force after the game. With Pele, Brazil won the World Cup three times in 12 years. Every kid from Asia, Africa to Australia plays football, and wants to be as successful as Brazilian veteran Pele.

A good communication among negotiators is a key element for settled outcome of the conflict. According to Pele quoted in the article, the pass in football game is a form of communication, transmission, participation, a link or contact in the foot. By passing, the players communicate with each other, bringing the ball from their defense area up into attack. The better the communication, the better are the chances of a successful team to score goals. Like in the constructive dialogic process, the 11 players are like partners and collaborators; they help each other with the aim of scoring more goals than the other.

A secure approach for conflict resolution is to look at the contexts where the conflict originates and exists. Contexts are formed by situations that are the result of forces and fields which possess an orientation to the future. Pele sees his learning and achievements as the result of the situations and experiences he has gone through in life.  A conflict solver must be patient and be prepared for negotiations and mediations that don’t work or that seem endless.

A conflict solver must be realistic like a negotiator about the settled goals. In fact, setting a goal that is impossible to achieve will end up in frustration. In negotiated solutions, the agreement is not the result of the effort of one or another negotiator or mediator, but of all involved in reaching solutions. Pele emphasised the team is the winner or loser, not the player in the football game 


One requires the possession, development and effective use of the communication skills for negotiated settlement of a conflict. One needs to be ready when the opportunities present themselves. One must be aware of the overlapping personalities and contexts that originate and surround the conflict, and realise that one will face obstacles and difficult times. As a team player, according to Pele, one must be acquainted with the diversity of the players, the applicable rules, and accept one’s personal limitations. Improvisation is a constant requirement in conflict resolution where each situation is unique. 

One must know that teamwork obliges cooperation and coordination among players who share the same goal, and that a leader may be crucial. Finally, like in music and football, conflict resolution of complex problems requires dedication and commitment. In this sense, Pele is a great negotiator in the field whose skills can be good lesson for the resolution of the complex problems.


Mukti Rijal

The author is presently associated with Policy Research Institute (PRI) as a senior research fellow. MORE

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