Tickets for Santos’ first match on European grounds sold out two days before the show. On May 23, 1959, a Saturday, more than 50 thousand people packed the Levsky Sofia Stadium, in Sofia, Bulgaria, to watch the magnificent Brazilian team.
Their debut opponent was Bulgaria’s B team. The Santos squad was the sensation of world soccer. No less than three world champion athletes with the Brazilian National Team in the 1958 World Cup – Pelé, Pepe and Zito – were part of the Santos squad.
The heavy rain that fell on the city of Sofia did not discourage the players. Even though they had to play on a drenched field, the forwards showed their willingness and drove the crowd wild with an electrifying 3-3 draw.
Pelé scored the first goal of the match at only 15’. Four minutes later, Pavão scored against for the Bulgarian national team. The King again left his mark and put Peixe ahead at 36’, but Jordanov tied the match again three minutes later, ending the first half at 2-2.
In the 20th minute of the final half Jordanov scored once again and put the hosts in the lead. The Bulgarians led the scoring by just three minutes, as at 23 Pepe, from a penalty, tied the match and thus ended Santos’ debut in Europe.
Our captain, Zito was injured and did not play on this debut, and coach Lula decided on the following lineup: Laércio, Pavão and Mourão; Getúlio, Álvaro and Fioti; Dorval, Afonsinho (Pagão), Coutinho (Alfredinho), Pelé and Pepe.
Goal after goal
Altogether, Santos played 21 more matches, in nine European countries: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Spain, Holland, Italy, Portugal and Switzerland, and twenty cities: Sofia, Liege, Brussels, Ghent, Groningen, Milan, Dusseldorf, Nuremberg, Geneva, Hamburg, Hannover, Enschede, Madrid, Lisbon, La Coruña, Valencia, Barcelona, Genoa, Vienna and Sevilla.
In some countries, the Santos team played matches one day after another, facing and thrashing great European teams in just over a month.
At Camp Nou, they took no notice of the strong Barcelona team, and thrashed 5-1. Dorval and Pelé scored two goals each and Coutinho scored one more. The Brazilian Evaristo de Macedo scored the consolation goal for the Spanish team.
During the tour, Santos won two trophies, Valencia and Teresa Herrera. To win the Valencia Tournament, they drew 4-4 with the home team, Valencia, and ran over Internazionale Milano by 7-1. For the Teresa Herrera Trophy, Santos also thrashed one of the greatest teams of the time, Garrincha’s Botafogo. Pepe scored twice and Coutinho and Pelé completed the score 4-1. Zagallo scored the consolation one for the carioca team.
In 22 matches, Santos scored an impressive 78 goals. They won 13, drew five and lost only four games. Pelé was the top scorer of the tour with 28 goals and Pepe the second top scorer, with 20 goals. In addition to being the first, the 1959 tour was also one of the most successful that Santos has ever done in Europe.
All matches from the 1959 tour
23/05 – Bulgarian B team 3 x 3 Santos
24/05 – Bulgarian team 0 x 2 Santos
26/05 – Royal Standard-BEL 0 x 1 Santos
27/05 – Anderlecht-BEL 2 x 4 Santos
30/05 – Gantoise-BEL 2 x 1 Santos
03/06 – Feyenoord-HOL 0 x 3 Santos
05/06 – Internazionale-ITA 3 x 2 Santos
06/06 – Fortuna Dusseldorf-GER 4 x 6 Santos
07/06 – Nuremberg-GER 3 x 3 Santos
09/06 – Servette-SWI 1 x 4 Santos
11/06 – Seleção de Hamburgo-GER 0 x 6 Santos
13/06 – Seleção de Niedersachsen-GER 1 x 7 Santos
15/06 – Enschede-HOL 0 x 5 Santos
17/06 – Real Madrid-ESP 5 x 3 Santos
19/06 – Sporting-POR 2 x 2 Santos
21/06 – Botafogo-RJ 1 x 4 Santos
24/06 – Valencia-ESP 4 x 4 Santos
26/06 – Internazionale-ITA 1 x 7 Santos
29/06 – Barcelona-ESP 1 x 5 Santos
30/06 – Genoa-ITA 2 x 4 Santos
02/07 – Wiener Sportklub-AUS 3 x 0 Santos
05/07 – Betis-ESP 2 x 2 Santos