Pele aliás Edson Arantes do Nascimento is regarded as one of the greatest footballers ever to have played the game! He died on 29 December, 2022, at the age of 82.
Pele was born in the state of Minas Gerais in 1940. His family moved to a nearby city called Bauru in search of a better living. Pele grew up in extreme poverty. His parents could not even buy him a football. An old sock filled with newspapers was the first “ball” Pele’s magical feet kicked! He instantly fell in love with the game and gained popularity with his exploits on the field.
The coach was impressed by Pele’s performance and signed him on the spot. The incident had taken place in 1956. Pele guided his team to a world cup title two years later. He was just 17 years old then! The wonder kid scored two goals against Sweden in the final.
At the final whistle, an exhausted Pele fainted on the field and was carried by the celebrating crowd.
Pele was easy-going, kind, joyful and a great friend.
Pele’s unique way of speaking Portugese turned into a trademark. He always completed his sentences with “entende?” which means “understand?”.
Apart from his skills and charisma, a certain mysticism always surrounded the King of Football. Pele hailed from a city called Três Corações, which translates to Three Hearts.
During his last match that he played in New York in 1977, he was quoted saying “love, love, love.”
Pele was already a footballing icon post his 1958 World Cup triumph. He made history with Santos winning 25 titles in the 1960s. Despite being a global superstar, Pele was a down-to-earth person. He used to share a guest house with other players and cycle around the city of Santos!
Despite being an ethnically diverse country, Brazil is not usually represented by people of color. Hence, having someone Black as its biggest celebrity had a cultural impact on the nation.
Being an avid lover of music, he had recorded an album with legendary Brazilian singer Elis Regina. A real ‘pop’ star, Pele acted in a handful of movies as well.
In 1970, at the first World Cup which was broadcasted in color, the Brazilian team comprising Pele, Clodoaldo, Rivelino and Tostão, showcased a splendid performance.
Brazil secured a 4-1 victory over Italy in the final. Pele’s header-the team’s opening goal in the match, is considered as one of the greatest goals ever. He used to celebrate his goals by jumping and punching in the air.
In 1969, Pele created history by becoming the first player ever to score 1,000 goals. The football legend scored his 1,000th goal at the Maracanã, in Rio de Janeiro, which is regarded as the Mecca of Football.
Pele left Santos in 1974. He played his final years in New York at a club called Cosmos. That was the only team he played for other than Santos and Brazil’s national side.
The number 10 jersey was assigned to the great player randomly. But since then, the number 10 jersey has been synonymous with the world’s best. This includes the likes of Maradona, Roberto Baggio, Zinedine Zidane and Lionel Messi.
Pele finally bid adieu to football after playing 1,363 games, winning 37 titles, and scoring 1,281 goals. This comprised 92 career hat-tricks as well.
During his retired life, Pele was involved in social activism. He also served as the UNESCO goodwill ambassador.
He took office as minister of sports in 1995. Pele also donned the role of commentator on television!
Pele was struggling with his health in recent years. Besides battling cancer, he also suffered from severe hip pain which made him spend most of his last years in a wheelchair.