The Pele Museum in Lugansk is, frankly, utterly surreal.
Thousands of miles away from Brazil, near the Russian border, it’s a shrine to Nikolai Khubodin’s childhood infatuation with the greatest player ever.
Nikolai, who played for his home town team Zorya Lugansk, heard about him on the radio in 1965 when he was ten.
And he has been collecting memorabilia – he has an estimated 3,000 items, for a very long time. Not all of them are about Pele.
A game staged in 1990 in Milan proved to be Pele’s last appearance when he played in an anniversary match to mark his 50th birthday.
As well as his international career he played for Santos, near Sao Paulo in southern Brazil.
Most of his claimed 1,283 goals were scored for the club – some 1,088. The thousandth came from a penalty against Vasco de Gama in the Maracana in 1969 and a picture of it is framed in a cabinet dedicated to the great man’s domestic career.
The museum is aiming to establish stronger links with Brazil.
Its press spokesman Sergey Popov says: “In the future, we want to be the museum’s honorary consulate in Brazil, I’m working on it. Brazilian ambassador promised us. Nicholas – the future will be the Honorary Consul of Brazil in Lugansk.
“We have already sent all the necessary documents to the Embassy of Brazil.
“Also, in November, at the initiative of Nicholas Khudobin -there was a delegation of Lugansk in Santos (it was my idea), and the contract was made friendship between Santos and Lugansk.
“There is information on the museum site about this. So – the museum plays an important role in the life of our city.”
The piece put up last week on Pele’s World Cup exploits and memorabilia is here.