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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Pele’s assistant retires after 53 years stating that as is

SAO PAULO ( Associated Press) – Jose Fornos Rodrigues has greeted and spoken to many of the world’s most popular and powerful people over the past five decades. Nevertheless, he does not appear in many photographs.

With a softer tone, he says that he has only met supermodel Gisele Bundchen, football star Kylian Mbappe and Russian President Vladimir Putin because he has a famous friend who has hired him to be his assistant.

Better known as Pepito Fornos, he retired this month as Pele’s right-hand man.

As the football great’s activities were severely curtailed during his treatment against colon cancer, the veteran assistant felt it was necessary to part ways professionally, return to the So Paulo countryside and maintain his friendship with Edson Arantes do Nascimento. It’s time.

Pele, 81, confirmed retirement a week ago after leaving So Paulo hospital following the latest treatment for 79-year-old Fornos.

“My great friend, Pepito. You always told me that your hair turned gray because of me, so I hope now it will regain its natural color,” wrote Pelé in a post accompanying photos of her on Instagram. “I will continue to work as usual, because I still have some more dreams to fulfill and I will still play a few more games. Thank you very much for everything and enjoy your retirement! ,

Fornos first met Pelé in the early 1960s, but only became close in 1969 during a visit to Milan after securing the sponsorship of Pelé’s club, Santos, of the VeriG airline. This was no small matter as the Brazilian team had been waiting for months to pay their star’s salary.

Pelé loved Fornos’ business attire – a well-cut suit and well-combed black hair – and thought it was a good idea to start bringing him to events with his sponsors. In 1971, the global icon and three-time World Cup winner asked an airline salesman to work for him with a little pay increase.

At the time, the most famous player on the planet earned $1.5 million a year, roughly split equally between soccer and marketing deals. Their partnership only took a break for a year, when Fornos married and left Santos. But this marriage did not last long and he returned to work for Pele.

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“Me and Pele are the same people from those early days,” Fornos said in a rare interview with the Associated Press over the phone. “I’ve always known what my place was. It was reserved, backstage.”

No matter who Pepito met behind closed doors, Pepito Fornos was almost always there for comfort or for immediate advice. He often mingled with journalists, and was not far from the boss.

Fornos believes that the mainstay of his relationship with Pele is his outspokenness. In the early 2000s, he was one of the few voices openly against his boss becoming president of Santos. And he told it to Pele’s face and to his mother, Celeste.

“I tell him what he wants to hear, not what he likes to hear,” Fornos said. “We were with his mother when she reported the news. I told Donna Celeste that her son is daydreaming. He should be above all in that club, for him the chairman was not there. Pele sometimes dreams and I drop him on the ground, pull his leg.

“He then looked at me and said, ‘You really are my counterweight’.”

Fornos said that he will continue to tell his former boss when he doesn’t dress smartly or complains too much.

“If I can’t tell him these things then I can’t be his friend. After that incident our friendship continued at his mother’s place. We had an argument, but we never stopped talking.”

Fornos said his best memory with Pele was in 2014, when the tearful star received the Ballon d’Or from FIFA and France Football magazine. The award, created in 1956, did not consider players based in South America for decades, and Pelé only played for two clubs; Santos and the New York Cosmos.

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Pele said that at that point his trophy collection was finally complete.

“Pele was just shining that day,” Fornos said. “It’s never too late to acknowledge who needs to be acknowledged.”

His worst memory came in 2020, when Pele’s brother, Jose Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Zoca, died at the age of 77.

“I’ve never seen Pele so sad in my whole life. They were really close, we did many things together for a long time. Pele is rocked to this day. It’s very disturbing for me to see that Pele is still there.” Also suffering from the passing of Zoka. He really hasn’t recovered from it.”

Fornos said that she never liked acting as a fan of celebrities she met Pele, but she has a long list of people who treat her well. These include singer Boy George, Brazilian striker Neymar, Roma coach Jose Mourinho and former US President Barack Obama.

The former aide said that no one who met Pele had ever let him down in more than five decades.

“My family always encouraged me, seeing it as an important job. They were happy to see that I was never criticized in the press.”

Fornos is still scrolling through the boxes and boxes of memorabilia, newspapers and magazines featuring the man for whom he worked for most of his life. The boxes are mostly in an apartment in Santos, which he left this month after ending employment with Pele.

“Our friendship is like a brotherhood,” Fornos said. “We were faithful to our core of humble Catholic families, never allowed ourselves to be swayed by the glamorous lives of famous people. We never took our feet off the ground, and each of us knew our place.

“When people told me I was getting famous, I always denied. Pele is famous. I was just looked around.”

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More Associated Press Soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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