Pele: A Football Pioneer, Sporting Legend and Brazilian Hero
He had the ball at his feet from birth. Every move, pass, and goal was different. Fans liked his speed, skill, and how much he loved the game.
In FIFA’s 1904–1984 anniversary book, Pele was praised as the person who turned football into an art form. The Brazilian striker was also named the World Footballer of the Century by the organization that runs world football. The International Olympic Committee also named him the sportsperson of the century. Pele was the king of football. He was a short man, but nothing was too big for him.
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Edson Arantes do Nascimento was born on October 23, 1940, in Tres Coracoes, Brazil.He was given the name Thomas Alva Edison after the American inventor of the same name. Even the man himself would never know what his nickname was, though. Most people think that when he was young, he liked the goalkeeper on his father’s team, whose name was “Bile,” but he said it as “Pile.” Even though he didn’t like the name, it stuck and became Pele.
Pele signed a contract with the Brazilian team Santos in 1956 and scored in his league debut against St. Andre when he was only 15 years old. He wasn’t on the Brazilian team for long before he was called up. At 16 years and 257 days old, he played in his first international game, in which Brazil lost 2-1 to Argentina. He scored the only goal of the game for Brazil.
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A year later, at the World Cup in Sweden, he was part of the team, but he had to start out on the bench. But then the little magician scored six goals in four games, helping his country win the championship. In the final against the home team, Pele showed off his football skills and tricks in a great way. A star known all over the world was born.
From the beginning of his career, Pele was loved more than any other football player in his home country. Brazil’s government even called him a “national treasure” when he was only 20 years old to stop him from moving to another country. When Pele went to places outside of Brazil, he was treated like a head of state. But at the World Cup in Chile in 1962, the striker got hurt. Brazil kept their title, but the sport’s newest hero didn’t play much because he got hurt in the second group game.
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Pele led Brazil to their third title in 1970 in Mexico. This came after a disappointing season. A year later, the great striker made his 92nd international appearance in Rio de Janeiro’s famous Maracana stadium in front of 180,000 fans. It was the last time that Pele played for the Selecao. Even though Pele was only 30 at the time, many people thought it was too soon for him to stop playing for his country. However, with 77 goals to his name and a unique style, no one could doubt his dedication.
Even now, nobody knows why Pele stopped playing soccer. Was it because of a fight with Joao Havelange, who was president of the Brazilian government at the time? Pele later said that he didn’t want to support the military junta in his country for political reasons. Pele’s life is still a mystery because no one knows for sure if he really was against the dictatorship or if he was friendly with ministers.
The striker played in the Brazilian league for the rest of his career. It’s not clear how many games and goals he scored for Santos. His official record, though, is 1,088 goals in 1,114 games. When he scored his 1,000th goal is also still unknown. He was supposed to score it on a penalty kick during a game against Vasco da Gama. On November 19, 1969, the whole country of Brazil celebrated this accomplishment. Even church bells were ringing. But research done after the fact showed that this was actually his 1,002nd goal.
In 1974, Pele stopped playing for good, or at least for a while. But a year later, he signed a contract with the North American Soccer League’s (NASL) New York Cosmos. At the time, the NASL was not very well known. What’s up? All of his money and property had been stolen by a friend, and he needed the money. Pele made millions of dollars a year in New York, which was the highest amount he could have been paid at the time. But Pele was also a pioneer for soccer in the United States, which wasn’t just about money. Pele, along with West Germany’s captain Franz Beckenbauer, who won the World Cup in 1974, helped make the sport more popular in the United States. Pele stopped playing soccer for good in 1977, after helping the Cosmos win the Soccer Bowl.
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Even now, most people think Pele, the late Diego Maradona of Argentina, and the newly crowned World Cup winner Lionel Messi are the complete attackers in football history. The number 10 for Brazil was good on both feet and in the air. Above all else, he was known for being very intuitive about how his opponents would move. Because he knew this, he could make the right pass or shot at the right time.
UNESCO Ambassador, Govt Minister
After he stopped playing soccer, Pele held a number of jobs. He was a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and Brazil’s extraordinary minister for sport, a job he used to fight corruption in football in the country. He also ran a television company, wrote autobiographies, acted in movies, and won a lot of awards from the world’s biggest sports and media outlets.
“Every child in the world wants to play football like Pele. That’s why I take it upon myself to show how to be not only a good football player but also a good man,” he once said.
In the past few years, Pele has had a lot of health problems. In 2012, he had surgery on his hip. He also got a urinary tract infection, had surgery to get rid of kidney stones, and fought a battle with cancer. In an interview with Brazilian TV station TV Globo in February 2020, Pele’s son, Edinho, said his father had become “depressed” and “embarrassed” by his worsening health, which had made him “reclusive.”
In his personal life, Pele was married three times and had several affairs. He had children both with and without his wife. But everyone will always remember Pele as the king of football.