The Swiss watchmaker enlisted the sporting heroes, who are both friends of the brand, to coach the teams for a five-a-side game held on an AstroTurf pitch set up in a courtyard of the 17th-century Palais Royal in central Paris.
The multiple World Cup winners walked out hand in hand, with Pelé using a cane as he is recovering from hip surgery.
“It’s great to see him so healthy,” said Maradona.
“We are happy and pleased that he is well and that he feels comfortable with us, and may we be together forever — enough with the fighting and enough with the warring,” added the Argentine player, who appeared to have adopted the royal plural.
The match — though it lasted only 30 minutes — was a closely fought affair, with players including Marco Materazzi, Rio Ferdinand, Fernando Hierro, David Trezeguet and Bebeto giving it their best.
Though slow on his feet, Maradona — wearing his number 10 shirt — joined his team for the second half, scoring a penalty and intentionally capping the game with an own goal to hand Pelé’s team, which was trailing by one point, an even score of 8 — 8.
The Brazilian player, who watched from the sidelines, repeatedly embraced his opponent in front of the cameras and dismissed talk of rivalry. “The problem is between Argentina and Brazil in football, but Maradona and I don’t have a problem,” Pelé, whose full name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento, told WWD. “There has never been any rivalry between Maradona and me. That was just something stirred up by reporters.”
The only player in history to have won three World Cups, Pelé said it was important to deliver a message of friendship on the eve of the UEFA European Championship, which starts in France on Friday against a backdrop of terrorism threats and strikes over the French government’s labor reforms.
“With all the problems in the world lately, between the Zika virus in Latin America, in Brazil, and the terrorist attacks here, this was an opportunity to bring a little peace, because sport is meant to bring people together, not tear them apart,” he said.
Nonetheless, he rejected suggestions that the equal score would fail to settle once and for all the question of who is the world’s greatest player. FIFA, football’s governing body, famously dodged the issue by jointly awarding its Player of the Century award to both men.
“No, I am the best. Everyone knows that,” Pelé insisted. “If you ask my mother or my father, you’ll see — they will say I’m the best.”
Ricardo Guadalupe, chief executive officer of Hublot, downed a celebratory glass of Champagne after the event, which also drew a handful of protesters who chanted slogans against the new labor law and tooted horns.
“We managed the impossible,” said the executive. “Listen, until the last moment, we thought it wasn’t going to happen, so it’s a bit of a dream come true.”
Hublot, an official partner of Euro 2016, has been active on the football pitch for 10 years. In addition to its partnerships with leading clubs Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Ajax, Juventus and Chelsea, it is the official timekeeper of the FIFA World Cup, a deal set to run through 2022.
“During the 2014 World Cup, we had 21 minutes of brand visibility on television, reaching a combined viewership of 20 to 30 billion people with our panel in the shape of a Big Bang,” he said, referring to Hublot’s best-selling watch model. “People register that Hublot is a watch brand and even if, obviously, not everyone can afford one, it becomes an aspirational brand,” he added.
Guadalupe said he was rooting for France to do well in the competition after a traumatic year that has sapped tourism and luxury spending. “I would love for them to have a great victory in their inaugural game against Romania tomorrow, because I think there is also a strong psychological component to this. It would be good for France if French people all focused a little on the Euro and supported their country,” he added.
Pelé was reluctant to pick a Euro winner, noting the beautiful game had produced some unlikely champions of late, such as English Premier League winners Leicester City. “That’s football — it’s a box of surprises,” he said.