Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known mononymously by his nickname Pelé, was a Brazilian professional footballer who played as a forward. Regarded as one of the greatest players of all time and labeled “the greatest” by FIFA, he was among the most successful and popular sports figures of the 20th century. Pelé also served as the Minister of Sports of Brazil.
Let’s look back at the chapters of how Pelé had progressed at various points of this colorful life:
Table of contents
- Pelé, the King of Football
- Born and growing up
- At Santos Football Club
- Unstoppable run of Pelé
- World Cup surprise
- Fairy tale hero
- Unforgettable goal and national treasure
- Injury on the world stage
- A disappointing World Cup
- The king of football stopped the war
- Unbelievable heights
- Third World Cup
- Last time in Brazil jersey
- New chapter
- Finally Retired
- Football and beyond borders
- Death of Pelé
Pelé, the King of Football
Pelé is known as the king of football all over the world, generation after generation. He had become a symbol of the game with his magical skills and incredible feats in football.
Pelé, a fairy tale character, the king of football, had become a football legend playing barefoot in socks and paper footballs in a poverty-stricken area of São Paulo. Beyond the boundaries of football, the hero is made a source of inspiration for countless people. Though immortal in fame, he had to leave this mortal world as per the rules of life.
Born and growing up
On October 23, 1940, Pelé was born in Tres Carasos, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. Parents named him Edson Arantes do Nascimento. His name is associated with the American scientist Thomas Alva Edison. At home everyone called him ‘Ziko’.
Pelé grew up in Bauru, São Paulo. In his poverty-stricken childhood, he worked in a tea shop for some extra income. He got the nickname ‘Pelé’ during his school days. His favorite footballer at that time was Vasco da Gama’s goalkeeper ‘Bile.’ As a boy, he was so good as a striker that he was often put in goalkeeping to balance the strength of the two teams. He made great saves there too. His companions used to joke, He seems to think of himself as a ‘Bilé’. Pelé himself, however, could not pronounce the name ‘Bilé’ correctly. He pronounced the name Bilé like ‘Pelé’. From there gradually ‘Bile’ evolved into ‘Pelé.’ Of course, Pelé himself did not like this name at all. He preferred the name given by his parents after the scientist Edison. But gradually his real name is lost behind the name of Pelé.
Pelé later said many times that he did not know the meaning of the name. The word ‘Bilé’ means ‘miracle’ in Hebrew. He started learning football during his childhood days of struggling with poverty. His father João Ramos do Nascimento, known as ‘Dandinho’, was also a footballer himself. Played in clubs like Fluminense. But could not continue due to injury. Pelé’s football education began with his father. Baba was Pelén’s guru, mentor and trainer.
As a child, he could not buy a real football and used to make paper footballs inside his socks. Sometimes he used to make football out of grapefruit. He played in many amateur clubs in his childhood and youth, and from that time word of his talent spread. Later he started showing glimpses of talent in indoor football. At the age of 14, he played in a tournament with the elders and became the top scorer. Much later, Pelé said, playing indoors increased his speed, creativity, and thinking power a lot. made him wiser.
At Santos Football Club
In 1956, Valdemar de Brito, a local coach from Bauru, took Pelé to Santos Football Club. told the Santos authorities about the 15-year-old teenage footballer, ‘Look at this boy, one day he will be the best footballer in the world.’ Santos coach Luis Alonso Pérez ‘Lula’ took a liking to the teenage footballer in training. Pelé signed a professional contract with Santos in June of that year. Pelé quickly created a buzz at Santos by showing off his football skills in practice. The local press began promoting him as a future superstar. He was quickly promoted to the senior team after playing in the junior team and made his debut for the senior team on 7 September 1956. Pelé scored the first goal of the day in a 7-1 win over Christians.
Unstoppable run of Pelé
A regular in the senior team from the start of the season in 1957. Eye-catching skill and goal after goal and put on the shelf. Became the top scorer in the senior league at the age of 16. Incredibly, he was called up to the Brazil national team within 10 months of making his first professional football debut. On July 7, 1957, not yet 17, he made his debut in the national team jersey. However, they lost 2-1 in the match against Argentina at the Maracana. However, Pelé scored Brazil’s only goal as a substitute in front of 80,000 spectators. At the age of 16 years and 259 days, he is still the youngest goalscorer in the history of the country.
World Cup surprise
Pelé’s place in the World Cup team despite age was inevitable. However, he went to play the World Cup in Sweden for the Brazilian team with a knee injury. There was intense apprehension about his landing in the field. There was also tension about keeping in the team. However, under the pressure of many teammates, he was kept in the team. He was given the number 10 jersey. The jersey that later became the symbol of the jersey, the association with that jersey from this World Cup. After a dramatic recovery, he played in Brazil’s third match at the World Cup, against the Soviet Union.
At that time, he was the youngest footballer in the history of the World Cup. Although he did not score a goal, he contributed to the goal in that match, and showed some magic of talent. Brazil beat Wales in the quarter-finals with Pelé’s goal. Brazil beat favorites France 5-2 in the semi-finals. Pelé scored a hat trick. After playing the final, his name was written in a record. He became the youngest footballer to play in the World Cup final at the age of 17 years and 249 days. He is not satisfied with only the record of landing on the field. He scored twice in a 5-2 win over hosts Sweden. The Swede flicked over the head of a defender and then volleyed home his first goal. That goal is still considered one of the best goals in football history. After the last whistle, Pelé broke down in tears. His teammates continued to celebrate around him.
Fairy tale hero
With the World Cup, Pelé’s magic spread beyond the borders of Brazil and went global. He emerged as the first black global sports superstar. He became a hero and source of inspiration for millions of people.
Another best: In 1959, he won the title of the highest goalscorer and the best footballer in the South American Championship (now Copa America).
Unforgettable goal and national treasure
Scored a goal for Santos against Fluminense in 1961, which had a permanent place in football history. Many people consider that incredible and extraordinary goal to be the most beautiful goal in football history. There is a lot of interest from big European clubs around him. There are also rumors about him leaving Santos and moving to Europe. To prevent that departure, in 1961, the President of Brazil declared Pelé as a ‘national treasure’. Pelé became the symbol of beautiful football.
Injury on the world stage
When he went to Chile to play the 1962 World Cup, he was recognized by almost everyone as the best footballer in the world. He contributed to the team’s first goal against Mexico in the first match, then scored a superb own goal after beating four defenders. In the next match, against Czechoslovakia, the dam had a setback while taking a long-range shot. He got injured and dropped out of the tournament. However, Brazil won the World Cup thanks to Garincha’s great skill.
A disappointing World Cup
Brazil went into the 1966 World Cup in England as tournament favourites. Pelé was the most famous footballer in the world. The whole team is full of stars. But to stop them, the opponent chooses the path of cruel foul. Pelé was injured. In the first match against Bulgaria, Pelé scored from a free kick after Garincha’s goal had put Brazil ahead. He became the first footballer to score in three consecutive World Cups. However, Pelé could not play in the next match against Hungary after getting injured in a foul by the Bulgarian footballers. The injured team lost the match.
The coach dropped an unfit Pelé in the fight for survival in the next match. Portuguese defender Joao Morais gave him a terrible foul in the match. But the referee did not show him a red card, which is still considered one of the worst decisions in World Cup history. After digging and playing, Pela could not do anything. Brazil withdrew from the group stage after losing the match. After being left out, Pelé said that he will never play in the World Cup again. Although later changed that decision.
The king of football stopped the war
In 1969, Santos Football Club went on a tour of Africa. One match was in Nigeria, which was in the midst of a bloody civil war. Thousands of people were dying. Santos agreed to go there only on condition of proper security. The war-crazed Nigerians also calmed down. Pelé’s game was suspended for 48 hours! Pelé scored the second goal in a 2-2 draw in Lagos. After that match, the war continued for another year.
Pelé scored his 1,000th goal in all competitions on 19 November 1969. The whole of Brazil was waiting for that moment. He scored the goal from the penalty in the match against Vasco da Gama. The entire gallery stood up and saluted him. The goal became famous as ‘O Millesimo’ or ‘The Thousandth’ goal.
Third World Cup
After the 1966 World Cup, Pelé was away from the Brazil team for a long time. He was also hesitant about playing in the 1970 World Cup. Later, however, he decided to play and scored 6 goals in 6 matches in the qualifiers. His reign continued as usual in the main event as well. After scoring one goal in the first match, he scored two goals in the last match of the group stage. He later scored the team’s first goal against Italy in the final. The image of Pelé, caught with his arms raised in jubilation after scoring a header, is considered one of the most ‘iconic’ images not only of football, but of any sport. Pelé later contributed two more goals. Brazil won the Jules Rim trophy with a 4-1 win. Pelé is still unique in being the first footballer to win three World Cups.
Last time in Brazil jersey
Pelé’s last appearance in international football was on July 18, 1971. His glorious chapter in the Brazilian jersey ended with a match against the then Yugoslavia.
Pelé did not feature regularly for Santos after the 1974 season. Sometimes, however, he played in one or two matches. But it is safe to say that it was like retirement. But in 1975, he made a huge stir in the football world and signed his name in American football for the New York Cosmos Club. He scored a goal in the first match for the new club. He is widely credited with popularizing soccer in the United States and introducing soccer to the world. Many other big stars followed him to the United States, a trend that continues to this day.
In 1977, his playing career was officially brought to a halt with an exhibition match between the Cosmos and Santos. He played both halves of the match for his two clubs. Apart from his father, wife, other family members, there were many other stars including Muhammad Ali, Bobby Moore in the audience list of the crowded gallery.
Football and beyond borders
Pelé was awarded the ‘International Peace Prize’ for his work on child protection for UNICEF. Pelé made his acting debut with the movie the Escape to Victory in 1981. Inducted into the US Football Hall of Fame in 1992. In 1993, he was nominated as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.
In 1995, Pelé got the responsibility of Sports Minister of Brazil. He took various steps to stop corruption in football and sports, enacted the law, which came to be known as the ‘Pelé Law’. He resigned from this position in 1998. In 1997, he received the honorary title of Knighthood’ given by the Queen of Great Britain. He was selected as the best footballer of the century in 1999 among the footballers who won the Ballon d’Or. In the same year, he received the World Soccer Footballer of the Century award, “Athlete of the Century” in the eyes of Reuters and the International Olympic Committee.
Pelé was recognized as FIFA’s footballer of the century the following year. He also received numerous titles, achievements and recognition at various times. Last June, he wrote an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin requesting an end to the war.
Death of Pelé
Pelé’s battle with cancer was going on for a long time. He had to go to the hospital often. Sometimes the condition had deteriorated so much that rumors of death have spread. Finally, on December 29, Pelé passed away.