Agis Kynigopoulos: The first Greek journalist to interview Pelé

Agis Kynigopoulos, Pelé greek journalist

On May Day 1960, Pelé, the then rising star of world football, traveled to Alexandria, the heart of Egypt's Greek community. He had not even turned 20-years-old, but he had already become a legend as a world champion with the Selecão at the World Cup in Sweden in 1958.

Somehow, Agis Kynigopoulos managed to get an interview, the first known to date that Pelé would give to a Greek journalist.

Kynigopoulos had retired as a basketball player after a long career with Thessaloniki club Iraklis. However, he chose to remain in the sporting world by becoming a journalist.

In 1960, Kynigopoulos had begun to work with media in Thessaloniki, but he was still only a young sports writer. He was attracted by the somewhat adventurous dimension of journalism.

So, he started from Thessaloniki to Egypt, with the sole aim of meeting Pelé. The reason for the mission assigned to himself - as he usually did - was a friendly match between the Brazilian national team, in full composition, with Egypt.

It was apparently a propaganda spectacle for the enjoyment of the local population, directed by the country's leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Kynigopoulos, of course, managed to overcome every "no, forget it" by applying his abiding rule of life that nothing is impossible and that there is always a way around rejection - even when everyone else saw only a wall.

In the end, he not only interviewed Pelé, but also met the Mané Garrincha, as well as the rest of the galactic footballers of that unique Selecão.

In fact, the acquaintance of Agis Kynigopoulos with Pelé continued with a friendship in the years that followed. The last time the two met was in the 70s in New York, when Pelé, in the (wild) west of his career, was playing for the New York Cosmos.

Kynigopoulos meanwhile had taken over the management of the national basketball teams on behalf of the Hellenic Basketball Federation.

He would develop into one of the pioneers, those who created the great Greek National Team - with a highlight, of course, the arrival of Nikos Galis, whom Kynigopoulos made sure to Hellenise, thus paving the way that ended in the Eurobasket triumph, in '87.

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