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Pele: Football’s first global superstar

Updated: Sep 26, 2018 18:24 IST
Hindustan Times
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Among the many descriptions of Pelé, the one by Henry Kissinger, former US secretary of state, perhaps best explains his longevity. “Most of today’s fans have never seen him play, and yet they feel he is part of their lives,” Kissinger had said. It tells you why Pelé, who last won a World Cup 48 years ago, has 2.6 million followers on Twitter. Or why, even when nearing 74, he was the face of an array of products during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Pelé remains the only footballer to have won three World Cup titles — the one in 1958 coming soon enough to obliterate the hurt of 1950 — but that doesn’t quite say it. About Pelé, Luis Alonso Perez, the coach at his first club Santos, had said: “He is fast on the ground and in the air, he has the physique, the kick, the ball control, the ability to dictate play, a feeling for the manoeuvre, he is unselfish, good natured and modest.” The Brazil of Pelé’s times — from 1958 to 1970 in the main — blended the solid with the spectacular. Named Fifa Player of the Century, Pelé was made Citizen of the World by the U N and was football’s first international star. When Pelé scored his 1,000th goal, a senator composed a poem and read it on the floor of Brazil’s Congress. In Brazil’s newspapers, that goal shared space with man landing on the Moon.

First Published: Sep 25, 2018 19:00 IST

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