Saturday, March 26, 2011


Edson Arantes do Nascimento, more popularly known as Pelé, or 'The King Pelé', or 'The King of Football'. Like many footballers, Pelé has claimed to be the greatest footballer of all time, saying he was born for football in the same way that ‘Beethoven was born for music’. Unlike many other footballers, however, a lot of people agree with him, and in 2000 he received a FIFA award declaring him, alongside Diego Maradona, the greatest player in the history of the game.


Edson Arantes do Nascimento was born in the city of Três Corações on October 23rd, 1940. He was named after Thomas Edison, the American inventor and engineer. As a boy, Pelé reportedly played football with a sock stuffed with paper or a grapefruit as he could not afford a ball, and had to work as a shoe-shiner to earn extra money. His nickname was given to him by a school-friend - a variation on the name of his favourite footballer ‘Bilé’, which he could not pronounce. Although he did not like it at first, claiming it sounded like the Portugese for ‘baby’, it would stick with him for the rest of his life.
His father ‘Dondinho’ was also a professional footballer, though not a remarkable one, and despite his mother Celeste’s initial caution, Edson was determined to follow in his father’s footsteps.
His first football team was formed with a number of friends from his neighbourhood - they called themselves ‘the shoeless ones’, and played in local tournaments. He and other members of the team were spotted and recruited to join a youth team managed by former Brazilian international Waldemar de Brito. Pelé went on to join the Santos FC juniors at the age of fifteen.
At the age of sixteen, he moved to Santos seniors where he stayed for the greater part of his career. His exploits caught the attention of the national side and, at the age of seventeen, he rose to international stardom in the 1958 World Cup, scoring a hat-trick in the semi-final and two goals in the final against Sweden. In the 1962 World Cup, he managed to score twice against Mexico before tearing a thigh muscle which put him out of the tournament - though Brazil went on to defend their title as World Champions.

In 1966, both Pelé and his team were out of the tournament at a much earlier stage. With Pelé injured again - but still able to play - they lost to Portugal in the third round. It was a career low for Pelé, and he vowed never to play in a World Cup again, but he went back on that promise in Mexico City in 1970 with a spectacular return to form. In his final World Cup match, the final against Italy, he notched the opener in a remarkable team performance which resulted in a 4-1 victory.
Pelé continued to play for Santos until 1974, though he retired from international football, and when he finally left Santos the club marked his leaving by removing the number 10 shirt from their line-up.
In 1975 he was tempted by American megabucks to come out of retirement and play for New York Cosmos, where he stayed for another two years before retiring for good. Even in retirement, however, Pele decided not to sit back and collect the cheques and the accolades that his legendary status has afforded him - he has continued his career in other directions.


Since retiring from football, Pelé has worked as a UNICEF Goodwill ambassador and as a United Nations ambassador, working to protect the environment and combat corruption in Brazil. Pelé was, for a short while, Brazil’s official minister for sport. He has also written multiple autobiographies, worked as a scout for football clubs, appeared in Hollywood films and even promoted Viagra and Pepsi during his decidedly active retiremen.

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