He is the footballer of the century for FIFA, this is enough to define the greatness of Edson Arantes do Nascimento known as Pelè.
Pelè was born on October 23, 1942, his father was a former footballer who ended his career due to an injury, his mother a housewife, Mrs. Maria Celeste Arantes. At the age of 5 he went to live in the city of Bauru where he started playing in the youth sector of the local team. The family being very poor, he could not have a ball but such was the call for football that the first ball he played with was made up of a sock filled with rags and paper tied with a string. It was at that time that his playmates gave him the nickname of Pelè in reference to a footballer of the time called Bilè.
The first team Pele played for was Bauru, a local amateur team and it was there that he was noticed by Waldemar de Brito, a former Brazilian international of the thirties and forties who reported him to Santos for an audition at the age of 15.
In 1956 when he joined Santos aged 15, he played for one season in the youth academy before arriving in the first team, where he made his debut for Santos on 7 September 1956 in a friendly against Corinthians scoring one goal. Starting in January 1957, he entered the stable as first team starter and at the age of 16 conquered the first of many personal trophies, becoming top scorer in the Paulista championship. After signing his first professional contract within ten months, he was called up to the national team.
From that moment, after the great world cup played and won as a protagonist in 1958, he attracted the attention of the biggest European clubs including Real Madrid, Juventus, Inter and Manchester United. After the World Cup in Sweden, Angelo Moratti’s Inter managed to get him to sign a contract but the black and blue president had to tear him up following an attack on the Santos president by a fan who was against his sale. Following this situation, in 1961 the Brazilian government declared Pele a “National Treasure” to prevent it from being sold abroad.
Goals and records with Santos
There were many personal bests beaten by Pele starting from November 22, 1964, in the Santos-Botafogo match where he scored eight goals, a record that belonged to Arthur Friedenreich with seven goals scored. On November 19, 1969 Pele scored the 1000th goal of his career. The goal was scored on a penalty kick at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro in the Vasco-Santos match.
Pelè’s goals are many and it is difficult to remember and identify the best ones. Surely some have entered the collective imagination of those who love football, not only for their beauty, but also for their importance. We are referring to two in particular: the first in the 1958 World Cup final between Brazil and Sweden. Pele, just eighteen, decides the match with great plays and two goals, one of which in which he receives the ball, jumps an opponent with a lob, kicks on the fly and bags behind the Swedish goalkeeper.
Subsequently it will be defined by FIFA as the best goal ever scored in a World Cup final. The other goal to remember is the 1970 World Cup final between Brazil and Italy, Pelè receives a cross from the left with a very high ball, takes off in the air above the Italian defender Burnich and scores behind the goalkeeper Albertosi. If the first goal described, scored in Sweden, was made of class and technique, the second against Italy demonstrated the great strength that the Brazilian phenomenon had in his legs which allowed him to detach high to take an almost unreachable ball.
But according to Pele, his most beautiful goal was the one scored at the Rua Javari Stadium on August 2, 1959 in a match of the Paulista championship between Santos and Juventude. In memory of that goal, a bust and a plaque were made outside the Javari Stadium. While the goal he scored in March 1961 at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, in a match between Fluminense and Santos, was defined as the most spectacular ever scored in the legendary Brazilian stadium. Also in memory of this goal, a plaque was placed outside the carioca stadium.
In summary of Pele’s goals besides scoring 8 goals in a single match, he scored 5 in a match 6 times, scored 4 goals in a single match 30 times, and scored 92 hat-tricks. His repertoire was to combine technical qualities with athletic ones, intelligence, speed, precision in passing and a unique sense of goal.
Santos in the sixties and seventies was considered one of the strongest clubs in the world and thanks to the presence of Pele it received invitations from all over the world to make friendlies which, thanks to the presence of the Brazilian phenomenon, received rich compensation which allowed him to keep a footballer like Pele.
A unique event was what happened in a match in Colombia where Pele was expelled, the public became so enraged that the Brazilian champion returned to the field and it was the referee himself who had to leave the pitch and not continue directing the competition. Or when for a friendly match in Nigeria the fighters of the country’s civil war called a 48-hour truce to watch the match. From these episodes we understand how much the Brazilian phenomenon has been admired and idolized in every part of the world.
After the conclusion of his career with Santos, in 1975 Pele accepted an offer from the New York Cosmos to go and play in the US top division and thus contribute to the development of football in the United States. In fact, the American League to grow football in the country, hired champions such as Pele, Bechenbauer, Chinaglia and Carlos Alberto.
The Brazilian star was given permission by the government to move to the United States and by the Cosmos he received a contract of 4.5 million dollars a year for three years. Even in the American club he was decisive in winning the championship and being included in the three years among the best players of the season.
Pele and the national team
His national team debut was on July 17, 1957 in a match against Argentina, the final result was 2-1 for the Argentines, and Brazil’s goal was scored by Pele. In 1958 he took part in the World Cup in Sweden, even though he was just 17 years old. He was the great protagonist for the final victory of the Selecao, in total he scored 6 goals, including 1 against Wales, 3 against France in the semifinal and 2 in the final against Sweden.
Numbers that no one had ever done at 17 and never repeated in a world competition to date. The formation of that spectacular Brazil was made up of: Gilmar, Djalma Santos, Nilton Santos, Zito, Bellini, Orlando, Garrincha, Didì, Vavà, Pele and Zagalo.
Pele played three more World Cups, two of which he won in 1962 and 1970. To date he is the only footballer in history to have won three World Cups. In 1962 he suffered an injury and the real protagonist of that victory was another phenomenon of Brazilian football, the right winger Garrincha. Brazil in that edition played with: Gilmar, Dilma Santos, Nilton Santos, Zito, Didì, Mauro, Zozimo; Garrincha, Didì, Vavà, Amarildo and Zagalo.
In the victory of the 1970 World Cup he was an authentic protagonist and in the final against Italy he scored the opening goal with a sensational header. The formation of that Brazil was: Felix, Carlos Alberto, Everaldo, Clodoaldo, Brito, Piazza; Jaizinho, Gerson, Tostào, Pele and Rivelino.
After the 1970 victory which allowed Brazil to keep the Rimet Cup forever, symbol of the World Cup, which would be awarded to whoever won the competition at least three times, Pele played four more games with the Selecao and then withdraw. In his final curriculum with the national team, Pele played a total of 92 matches, scoring 77 goals, winning 3 World Cups.
Curious statistic: when the Brazilian national team had Pele and Garrinchia on the field together, they never lost.
In October 1977 Pele announced his retirement from competitive sport with a friendly match between Cosmos and Santos. The Brazilian phenomenon to thank the fans of the two clubs where he had played in his amazing career, he played one time first with the Cosmos and the second with Santos. The friendly was broadcast in 38 countries around the world, to salute what was called the greatest footballer in the history of world football. Pele ended his career having scored 1,281 goals and for this figure he was considered the greatest goalscorer in history.
Given his enormous fame, Pele after he stopped playing, devoted himself to publishing books and documentaries that tell his incredible story as a footballer. He began to travel the world to attend conferences concerning his figure recognized on a planetary level. He also took charge of representing the United Nations as ambassador for ecology and the environment.
In 1995 he was appointed Minister of Sport by President Cardoso’s government, in this position he proposed a law to eliminate corruption in football, which was called the “Pele Law”. In politics he remained until 1998, after this experience he was appointed ambassador for football by FIFA. With the highest body in the world of football, he participated in the drafting of the list of the 100 best footballers in history. In 2011 it was nominated together with Messi and Mexican Hugo Sanchez “Historical Sports Heritage of Humanity”
Over the past 10 years Pele has been hospitalized for various health problems, including kidney stones and bladder problems. In 2021 he was diagnosed with colon cancer, which he is also battling these days.
In conclusion, there would still be so much to say about Pelè because he was the footballer who won, scored goals, admired by football and non-football fans, more than anyone else in the world.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento known as “Pelè” is Unique and Unreachable, the King of Football.