Pelé, real name Edson Arantes do Nascimento, is one of the best, best known, most loved and most iconic footballers in the history of universal sport.
The Brazilian Pelé was born on October 23, 1940 into a family so poor that they could not afford to buy a soccer ball, little Pelé improvised a round ball himself from socks filled with paper.
Perhaps his talent was inherited from the family, Pelé’s father being a professional soccer player. But following an accident on the sports field, he suffered serious knee injuries, so he had to give up his football career.
Instead, seeing glimpses of a future great champion in his son, he encouraged the legendary Pelé to play football as much as possible.
He suffered from malnutrition
At the age of 15, the Brazilian’s natural skills as a footballer were noticed, so he was signed up for the local football team called Santos (from Sao Paolo). The one who discovered it was another great Brazilian footballer of the time, Waldemar de Brito. Since then, Pelé has proven to be a wizard of the round ball. He played the ball on his feet like no one else, dribbling and dribbling on the football field like he was the only player.
Pelé had the aura of a champion, even if Pelé’s physical condition when he signed with Santos was not good at all. During the medical checks, it was discovered that the teenager was suffering from several diseases, including malnutrition. After a rehabilitation program he followed, he managed to return to a normal form.
The football star at only 17 years old
At the age of 16, he was selected for the Brazilian national team, and at the age of 17 he gained fame as one of the best footballers in the world with his participation in the Brazil team at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. That’s when he became an international star. The quality of his play and impressive number of goals (he scored six times, including two goals in the championship final) brought the first of three victories (1962 and 1970) that Brazil enjoyed at the World Cup.
Pelé was three times the captain of the Brazilian team at the world championships (1958,1962,1970) and the only football player in history to win three World Cups.
“I’ve always had a philosophy that I got from my father. He said: Listen. God gave you the gift of playing football. This is your gift from God. If you take care of your health, if you are always in good shape, with your gift from God no one will stop you, but you have to be prepared“.
Called a national treasure
The champion, the Black Pearl of world football, the revelation of the moment, the God of Football, Pelé had reached the top of the best athletes in the world, and his talent stunned many coaches and owners of football clubs who began to make him sensational offers. But the football magician was not so easy to buy. To ensure that Pelé would remain Brazil’s player, in 1961 the country’s president, Janio Quadros, declared the footballer a national treasure.
Pelé’s free-flowing style, talent and obvious enthusiasm for the sport won him millions of fans. Not only was he appreciated for his athletic skills and the beautiful play he performed on the field during football matches, but he was also loved for his pleasant personality.
“Every kid in the world who plays football wants to be Pelé. I have a great responsibility to show not only how a football player should be, but also how a man should be”.
It stopped a civil war
In 1962, Pelé participated in the World Cup in Chile, in 1966 in England, in both championships he was injured and missed the finals. In 1967, a civil war was suspended for two days in honor of Pelé’s presence in Africa. Pelé had come to Nigeria for a friendly match. The Nigerian Civil War (also known as the Biafra War) lasted for almost three years (from 1967 to 1970), a conflict in which over a million people died.
Some sources say that this civil war in Nigeria would have been stopped, on the occasion of the arrival of Pelé and the team of the club in Sao Paolo, for 48 hours, others report that the peace lasted even three days. That’s how popular Pelé was. Although, over time, this story was controversial because there was no clear data to confirm its veracity, however, in 2011, in an interview that Pelé gave to CNN, he said that the incident was real.
I was born to play football, as Beethoven was born to compose and Michelangelo to paint – Pelé
Pelé, over time, won numerous medals and awards, including “The Best Footballer of the Century”, was included by TIME in the “Top 100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century” (in 1999) and was awarded with seven Ballon d’Or.
Briefly about Pelé:
- He scored 1283 goals, scored in 1363 matches;
- He was voted the athlete of the century by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1999;
- In 1997, he received an honorary British knighthood;
- On November 19, 1969, he scored his 1000th career goal. Hundreds of people then ran onto the field to congratulate the Brazilian star, delaying the match by 30 minutes;
- is fifth on the all-time World Cup scorers list and the second highest ranked Brazilian after Ronaldo;
- When he retired from football, JB Pinheiro, Brazil’s ambassador to the United Nations, said: “Pelé played football for 22 years, and in that time he did more to promote world friendship and brotherhood than any other ambassador of anywhere”;
- When he played for the New York Cosmos, so many opponents wanted to switch shirts with him that the club had to give each player a shirt. “Pelé was the main attraction,” said Gordon Bradley, one of the club’s coaches at the time. “Sometimes we had to take 25 or 30 shirts with us to a match – otherwise we would never have made it out of the stadium alive”;
- Over time it has helped raise millions of pounds for charitable causes;
- Pelé and Maradona were not friends. In 2010, Pelé said of the Argentine: “He is not a good example for the youth. He had the gift of God to be able to play football and that’s why he’s lucky.” Maradona’s response: “Who cares what Pelé says? He is (exhibited) in a museum.”;
- He got the nickname Pelé during his school days when he used to pronounce the name of the local goalkeeper Vasco da Gama, Bile, as Pile. Therefore, a classmate started calling him Pelé;
- His first goal in a World Cup final came against Wales in the quarter-finals in 1958. Brazil won 1–0;
- Since April 1994, he has been married to psychologist and gospel singer Assíria Lemos Seixas;
- Pelé on success: “Success is not accidental. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, study, sacrifice, and most of all, love for what you are doing or learning to do.”;
- In 2000, he came second in the race for the BBC Sportsman of the Century title. The first place went to the world boxing legend, Muhammad Ali;
- Tarcisio Burgnich, the Italian defender who faced the Brazilian in the 1970 World Cup final, said after the match: “I imagined Pelé was made of skin and bones like everyone else – but I was wrong”;
- In 1993, it was included in National Soccer Hall of Fame;
- Pelé’s first football team was the one in the neighborhood where he was born and was made up of all the friends he played with on the street. The team was called “The Shoeless Ones”;
- In Brazil, Coca-Cola sponsors a mobile museum dedicated to Pelé that travels around the country;
- Cristiano Ronaldo on Pelé: “He is the greatest player in the history of football and there will only be one Pelé.”;
- He was a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and United Nations Ambassador, advocating for the protection of the environment and fighting corruption in Brazil;
- His last international match for Brazil was a 2–2 draw with Yugoslavia on 18 July 1971;
- On October 1, 1977, he retired in the match between New York Cosmos and Santos, a match that was broadcast around the world. Pelé played for the American team in the first half, and in the second half for the South Americans. Pelé played for Santos for 18 years between 1956 and 1974 before moving to the New York Cosmos. On that occasion, US team officials retired the number 10 jersey, and Pelé asked the fans (more than 75,000) who attended the match to chant “love” three times. (Tickets for the match had sold out six weeks before);
- He acted in the movie Escape to Victory (1981), starring Sylvester Stallone and Michael Caine, a World War II action drama about the football match between a POW team and a Nazi team. Pelé played the role of the team’s star forward, Corporal Luis Fernandez, who was originally from Trinidad and Tobago. Pelé has also acted in productions A Minor Miracle (1983) and Hot shot (1987);
- In 2005, he appeared in a Viagra commercial;
- In 1970, before the match in Mexico, he signaled to the referee that he had to tie his shoelaces. The cameras were instantly on him, filming his Puma boots. Subsequently, the brand experienced a huge increase in sales;
- German football legend Franz Beckenbauer said of Pelé: “He is the most complete player I have ever seen.”
In September 2021, Pelé was diagnosed with intestinal cancer, and a few days ago he stopped responding to chemotherapy treatment, being moved to palliative care at the “Albert Einstein” hospital in Sao Paulo.
Even in these conditions, from the hospital bed, Pelé, together with his daughter, are sending messages to fans around the world trying to reassure them. Force Pele!