Once referred to as the world's most famous four-letter word, Pele devoted nearly five pages about his run-up to the 1000th goal in his autobiography My life and the beautiful game. It was a feat as monumental as Sachin Tendulkar's and the wait just as agonising with the world media watching every step he took. “Every time I approached the goal area there would be a battery of cameras aimed at me, and it became quite irritating,” Pele wrote after scoring four goals on October 15, 1969 to take his tally to 995. At another point he compared cameras to Martian monsters.
Goal No. 996 followed soon but then there was a drought. “I knew the entire Santos team was hoping for the magic number to be reached to permit us to go about our business of playing football without feeling like something on a slide under a microscope.” Before the game against Esporte Club of Bahia in the Brazil league, Pele wrote “I had a cold feeling…that the elusive Goal Number 1000 would always be in front of me, taunting me and preventing me from playing proper football.” And just when Pele thought it would finally end, his shot was saved by the goalie. Vasco da Gama came next on a day it rained. Yet 80,000 spectators fetched up in the hope of seeing history. Around the 30-minute mark, Pele beat his marker and fired but this time too the goalie saved.
The decisive moment came after a pass from Clodoaldo and Pele beat his markers but was fouled --- penalty. “A penalty kick certainly wasn't the way I had hoped to make my thousandth goal but at this point I would have taken it anyway I could. I don't know how long I stood over the ball with Andrade (Vasco goalie) watching me; I was trying to forget the importance of this one goal to me … Then almost as if my body had got tired of waiting while my mind was still discussing the matter, I found I had kicked the ball and was watching it curve into the net.
It took Pele nine games to score five goals after reaching 995 in 900 games. In 20 years, he scored almost 1300 goals in 1400 games.