MIKE DOWLING says a week doesn’t go by without people stopping him in the street to talk about an event that happened almost 40 years ago.
In March 1973 Santos of Brazil were on a European tour when they played Third Division Plymouth Argyle at Home Park.
Santos brought with them one of the greatest players of all-time Pele, as well as Edu, Carlos Alberto and Clodoaldo who all helped Brazil win the 1970 World Cup.
But the superstars found themselves 3-0 down at half-time thanks to goals from Dowling, Derek Rickard and Jimmy Hinch before pulling it back to 3-2 at the final whistle.
It was one of the biggest events for years in one of the UK’s footballing outposts and they made the most of their time in the spotlight.
“It’s everybody’s memory,” said Dowling. “I still get people talking about that goal every week.
“I must admit I am a little blaze about it. To me it was just about another game of football I played in.
“It was obviously hyped for Santos. They had quite a lot of players who were in Brazil’s 1970 World Cup winning squad. I think they thought it was going to be an easy match, an exhibition.
“For my goal I robbed somebody of the ball in midfield and started to approach the goal.
“They kept on backing off so I let fly and the ball went in.
“I am not being funny but once you are on the that pitch Pele is just another player. At the end of the day you see some flashes of brilliance.
“Otherwise he is just an ordinary player like everybody else. He was an opposition player, the enemy. That’s the way that I looked upon it anyway.
“Some players stand out as being better. I mean you notice they are a lot better, people that I played against throughout my career, you take notice of how good they are.
“That game was just busy, busy, busy so you don’t take too much notice. I played in midfield and he was up front so our path’s didn’t cross.”
The game almost didn’t go ahead after Santos officials saw a crowd approaching 40,000 and 15 minutes before kick off they demanded a larger fee.
Santos had agreed £2,500 to play which was the same as they picked up for a game against Fulham the previous weekend when 11,000 turned up.
But as soon as they saw a packed-out Home Park they demanded another £2,500 on top of their agreed fee.
“People came from all over the West Country,” Dowling added. “And when Brazil saw the size of the crowd they had a big meeting and they threatened not to come out unless they got paid more.
“They got paid but were then reported to FIFA because of what they were doing. We didn’t know anything about it until afterwards.
“I’d have made an announcement to the crowd about their demands. They would have killed them. As simple as that.
“They wouldn’t have got onto the bus would they?”
2. Neil Hague: After starting a building company in his native Yorkshire he returned to the South West and became a property developer in Plymouth.
3. Jimmy Hinch: He settled in the United States where he coached a high school and ran his own soccer camps, then set up his own business mortgage company.
4. Keith Allen: After injury ended his career he became a second- hand car dealer and is now back living on his native Isle of White in retirement.
5. Bobby Saxton: He managed Exeter, Argyle, Blackburn, York, Newcastle and worked under Peter Reid at Sunderland and is still scouting.
6. Mike Dowling: He lives in his native Bodmin and worked in factories and on building sites but for the last six years has been a collector for a credit company.
7. Steve Davey: He has owned a residential rest home for the elderly in Plymouth. He is also a commentator for BBC Radio Devon.
8. Peta Bala’c: He lives near Chester and worked for a pharmaceutical company before opening his own restaurant.
9. Les Latcham: He returned to Lancashire and lives in Nelson near Burnley and worked in the insurance industry.
10. Alan Welsh: He lives in Forest Hill, South East London and worked in Millwall’s commercial department before going into the building trade.
11. Derek Rickard: He is still living in his native Plymouth and ran a Western Mill newsagent for 22 years until August 1998 when he became a delivery driver for the local newspaper.
12. Colin Sullivan: A former England under-23 international, he has worked as a postman and landscape gardener near his base in Titchfield, Hampshire.
13. Hughie Reed: He settled in Cheshire and lived in the Crewe area until his death in November 1992 aged 42.
14. Davie Provan: He went into the media in Scotland working for radio and newspaper and is now a co-commentator for Sky Sports.
15. John Hore: Managed Argyle and took them to an FA Cup semi final and then owned a fitness club with his wife in Exeter before retiring.
16. Allan Harris: The brother of ‘Chopper’ and Terry Venables’ right hand man at Crystal Palace, QPR and Barcelona. He has managed Al-Ahly and Malaysia and been an agent.
17. Ronnie Brown: He settled in West Yorkshire and for many years was working as a hospital porter at Bradford Royal Infirmary.
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