The resemblance between Adu and the teenage Pel� is almost eerie, from their open, innocent faces, unmarked by time, to their low-to-the-ground playing styles. That's not all. Like Adu, whose June 2, 1989, birth date has been questioned (no evidence to the contrary was found in a 2003 SI investigation), Pel� once endured the same accusations. "When I was on the national team at 17, nobody trusted us," Pel� says. "He's not 17. But what are you going to do? In Europe they argue about Freddy's age, but he has his documents."
Not long ago Adu watched a retrospective on Pel�'s career that included footage from the 1958 and 1970 World Cups. "The highlights are just ridiculous," Adu says, eyes wide with excitement. "He made everything look easy." Yet in the long run, none of Pel�'s performances may be more important than the one Adu saw today: the hugs for strangers, the easygoing manner, the smiles-for-all diplomacy. "He treats everyone the same way," Freddy says. "That just tells you that you're never too big for the sport. He's the greatest ever to touch a soccer ball, yet he's so down to earth. To see him do that is unbelievable."
Indeed, the tables have been turned. Who could have known that Adu would leave their encounter thinking: This Pel� guy, he showed me something.