Sao Paulo, Oct 19 (efe-epa).- Eduardo Kobra, a Sao Paulo-born street artist whose socially conscious graffiti has won him international acclaim, is marking soccer legend Pele’s 80th birthday with a giant mural in the southeastern Brazilian city of Santos.
His project will turn a facade of the future Tourist Activities Center in Santos, where Pele played for nearly two decades, into an enormous, 800-square-meter (8,600-square-foot) open-air art exhibition.
The mural depicts the beloved three-time World Cup champion and joint recipient of the FIFA Player of the 20th Century award alongside three other sources of pride for Santos’ residents: its tourist trolleybuses, historical Coffee Museum building and dockworkers at the city’s port.
Kobra said Pele is his greatest sporting hero along with late Formula One icon Ayrton Senna and that he had long dreamed of making him a subject of one of his murals.
Pele “is a genius, considered the greatest athlete of the 20th century. He’s the greatest player of all time but also an icon,” said Kobra, one of the world’s most recognized street artists.
“When I travel, in all the places I go, the first name from Brazil that comes up is Pele, whether it’s in Japan or in Africa,” the artist told Efe.
Titled “Coracao Santista,” Pele’s portion of the mural is inspired by Luiz Paulo Machado’s emblematic 1976 photo of Pele during a Brazilian national team game in which the sweat on the front of his jersey formed the shape of a heart.
“I put the heart with the word ‘Santos’ below, which reflects his love for the city and for the club (Santos FC) and the affection the residents feel for him,” the artist said.
In preparing his gift to Pele and the city, Kobra worked 10 hours a day for 45 straight days and used more than 300 cans of spray paint.
“In getting to the final result, I made more than 30 designs, seeking a certain balance between the scenes, the right use of colors and black and white and respect and appreciation for Santos’ culture and history,” Kobra said.
The man regarded by many – including Kobra – as the greatest soccer player of all time will turn 80 on Friday.
Pele achieved a series of impressive feats during his storied career, including scoring more than 1,000 goals, helping lead Brazil to victory in the 1958 World Cup at the age of just 17 and doing it all with remarkable style.
“Pele is a soccer artist, he’s a Brazilian hero,” said Kobra, a Sao Paulo native who at the age of 44 has already painted thousands of murals in dozens of countries around the world. EFE-EPA