Pele: The undisputed king of football
Born on October 23, 1940 to Dondinho, a Fluminense soccer club player and Celeste Arantes in Três Corações, in the Brazilian province of Minas Gerais. Originally named Edson Arantes Do Nascimento he later came to be known as Pelé .
He developed a deep interest in football at a very young age. He joined a youth squad coached by Waldemar de Brito, a former member of the Brazilian national team. De Brito convinced Pelé’s family to let him try out the Santos professional club when he was 15. He signed a contract with Santos in 1956 and was hailed by the local media as a future superstar. The same year, he debuted in the senior team against Corinthians Santo Andre. In 1957, Pelé made it to his club’s first team and just 10 months later, earned a place in the Brazilian national team.
Pelé made his international debut in 1957 and the following year played his first game in the World Cup in Sweden. The 17-year-old scored three goals in a 5-2 semi-final win over France and netted two more in the final to enable Brazil carve out a 5-2 win over the hosts. Pelé won his first major title with Santos in 1958 when the team won the Campeonato Paulista. He finished the tournament as top scorer with 58 goals, a record that stands till date.
Rise to fame
In 1961, he scored the gol de placa (goal worthy of a plaque) against Fluminense at the famous Maracanã Stadium. He received the ball at the edge of his own penalty area and ran the length of the field, eluding his rivals with feints before striking the ball past the goalkeeper. A plaque was commissioned with a dedication to ‘the most beautiful goal in the history of the Maracana’. In the 1962 World Cup, Pelé was the world’s best rated player. In 1969, he scored his 1000th goal in all competitions. The goal, dubbed O Milésimo (The Thousandth), was scored off a penalty kick against Vasco da Gama, again at the Maracanã. Pelé ended his World Cup career with 12 goals in 14 games. After the 1974 season, he retired from Brazilian club football. Two years later, he signed with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League. He holds Guinness world records for the most career goals (1,283 goals in 1,363 games) and the youngest winner of a FIFA World Cup (at 17 years, 249 days in the 1958 FIFA World Cup).
Pelé was first married to Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi in 1966 and then to Assíria Lemos Seixas in 1994 but both marriages fell apart. Pelé later married Marcia Aoki in the year 2016. Last year, he had to undergo a surgery to remove kidney stones. Pelé has so far published several autobiographies.
Feats & achievements
Pelé received many awards, including the FIFA World Cup Best Young Player in 1958, FIFA World Cup Silver Ball in 1958, FIFA World Cup Golden Ball (Best Player) in 1970, South American Championship Best Player in 1959. TIME Magazine listed him among the 100 most important people of the 20th century. He was elected Citizen of the World by the UN in 1977. In 1997 Queen Elizabeth II conferred on him the honorary title Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
1. He received the nickname Pelé at school. It is claimed that the name came from his mispronunciation of the name of his favourite player, Bilé. The more he complained about it the more it stuck.
2. Pelé grew up in poverty and earned extra money by working in tea shops. He could not afford a proper football and played with either a newspaper stuffed sock tied with a string or a grapefruit.
3. In 1961, the Brazilian government declared Pele an ‘official national treasure’. The government did this to prevent him from being transferred out of the country by European clubs.
4. In 2018, Pelé launched his namesake global legacy foundation, The Pelé Foundation, a charitable endeavour that will benefit organisations around the world with their dedicated efforts to empower children, specifically those around poverty and education. In its first year, The Pelé Foundation is partnering with Pencils of Promise and charity: water to fulfill their mission.
Sources: wikipedia, britannica.com, biography.com