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Pelé

Brazilian association football player

Top 10 Pelé related articles

Pelé
Pelé in 1995
Born
Edson Arantes do Nascimento

(1940-10-23) 23 October 1940 (age 80)
Occupation
  • Footballer
  • humanitarian
Height1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)
Spouse(s)
Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi
(m. 1966⁠–⁠1982)
Assíria Lemos Seixas
(m. 1994⁠–⁠2008)
Marcia Aoki
(m. 2016)
Partner(s)Xuxa Meneghel (1981–1986)
Children7 (1 deceased)
Parent(s)João Ramo do Nascimento
Celeste Arantes

Association football career
Playing position(s)
Youth career
1953–1956 Bauru
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1956–1974 Santos 496 (504)
1975–1977 New York Cosmos 64 (37)
Total 560 (541)
National team
1957–1971 Brazil 92 (77)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only
1st Minister of Sports
In office
1 January 1995 – 1 May 1998
PresidentFernando Henrique Cardoso
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byRafael Greca (1999)
Websitepele.com

Edson Arantes do Nascimento (Brazilian Portuguese: [ˈɛtsõ (w)ɐˈɾɐ̃tʃiz du nɐsiˈmẽtu]; born 23 October 1940), known as Pelé ([peˈlɛ]), is a Brazilian former professional footballer who played as a forward. Regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, he was among the most successful and popular sports figures of the 20th century. During his playing days, Pelé was for a period the best-paid athlete in the world.

In 1999, Pelé was voted World Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS), and was one of the two joint winners of the FIFA Player of the Century. That same year, Pelé was named Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee and was included in the Time list of the 100 most important people of the 20th century. According to the IFFHS, Pelé is the most successful top division scorer in the sport with 541 goals in 560 games.[1] His total of 1279 goals in 1363 games, which included friendlies, is a Guinness World Record.[2]

Pelé began playing for Santos at age 15 and the Brazil national team at 16. During his international career, he won three FIFA World Cups: 1958, 1962 and 1970, the only player ever to do so. Pelé is the all-time leading goalscorer for Brazil with 77 goals in 92 games. At club level he is Santos' all-time top goalscorer with 643 goals from 656 games. A golden era for Santos, he led the club to the 1962 and 1963 Copa Libertadores, and to the 1962 and 1963 Intercontinental Cup. Credited with connecting the phrase "The Beautiful Game" with football, Pelé's "electrifying play and penchant for spectacular goals" made him a star around the world, and his teams toured internationally in order to take full advantage of his popularity.[3] Since retiring in 1977, Pelé has been a worldwide ambassador for football and has made many acting and commercial ventures. In 2010, he was named the Honorary President of the New York Cosmos.

Averaging almost a goal per game throughout his career, Pelé was adept at striking the ball with either foot in addition to anticipating his opponents' movements on the field. While predominantly a striker, he could also drop deep and take on a playmaking role, providing assists with his vision and passing ability, and he would also use his dribbling skills to go past opponents. In Brazil, he is hailed as a national hero for his accomplishments in football and for his outspoken support of policies that improve the social conditions of the poor. Throughout his career and in his retirement, Pelé received several individual and team awards for his performance in the field, his record-breaking achievements, and legacy in the sport.

Pelé Intro articles: 12

Early years

Born in Três Corações in 1940, Pelé has a street named after him in the city – Rua Edson Arantes do Nascimento. A statue of Pelé is also prominently placed in a plaza near downtown.

Pelé was born Edson Arantes do Nascimento on 23 October 1940, in Três Corações, Minas Gerais, Brazil, the son of Fluminense footballer Dondinho (born João Ramos do Nascimento) and Celeste Arantes. He was the elder of two siblings.[4] He was named after the American inventor Thomas Edison.[5] His parents decided to remove the "i" and call him "Edson", but there was a mistake on the birth certificate, leading many documents to show his name as "Edison", not "Edson", as he is called.[5][6] He was originally nicknamed "Dico" by his family.[4][7] He received the nickname "Pelé" during his school days, when it is claimed he was given it because of his pronunciation of the name of his favorite player, local Vasco da Gama goalkeeper Bilé, which he misspoke but the more he complained the more it stuck. In his autobiography, Pelé stated he had no idea what the name means, nor did his old friends.[4] Apart from the assertion that the name is derived from that of Bilé, and that it is Hebrew for "miracle" (פֶּ֫לֶא), the word has no known meaning in Portuguese.[note 1][8]

Pelé grew up in poverty in Bauru in the state of São Paulo. He earned extra money by working in tea shops as a servant. Taught to play by his father, he could not afford a proper football and usually played with either a sock stuffed with newspaper and tied with a string or a grapefruit.[9][4] He played for several amateur teams in his youth, including Sete de Setembro, Canto do Rio, São Paulinho, and Amériquinha.[10] Pelé led Bauru Athletic Club juniors (coached by Waldemar de Brito) to two São Paulo state youth championships.[11] In his mid-teens, he played for an indoor football team called Radium. Indoor football had just become popular in Bauru when Pelé began playing it. He was part of the first futsal (indoor football) competition in the region. Pelé and his team won the first championship and several others.[12]

According to Pelé, futsal (indoor football) presented difficult challenges; he said it was a lot quicker than football on the grass and that players were required to think faster because everyone is close to each other in the pitch. Pelé accredits futsal for helping him think better on the spot. In addition, futsal allowed him to play with adults when he was about 14 years old. In one of the tournaments he participated, he was initially considered too young to play, but eventually went on to end up top scorer with fourteen or fifteen goals. "That gave me a lot of confidence", Pelé said, "I knew then not to be afraid of whatever might come".[12]

Pelé Early years articles: 12

Club career

Santos

In 1956, de Brito took Pelé to Santos, an industrial and port city located near São Paulo, to try out for professional club Santos FC, telling the directors at Santos that the 15-year-old would be "the greatest football player in the world."[13] Pelé impressed Santos coach Lula during his trial at the Estádio Vila Belmiro, and he signed a professional contract with the club in June 1956.[14] Pelé was highly promoted in the local media as a future superstar. He made his senior team debut on 7 September 1956 at the age of 15 against Corinthians Santo Andre and had an impressive performance in a 7–1 victory, scoring the first goal in his prolific career during the match.[15][16]

When the 1957 season started, Pelé was given a starting place in the first team and, at the age of 16, became the top scorer in the league. Ten months after signing professionally, the teenager was called up to the Brazil national team. After the 1958 and the 1962 World Cup, wealthy European clubs, such as Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester United,[17] tried to sign him in vain; in 1958 Inter Milan even managed to get him a regular contract, but Angelo Moratti was forced to tear the contract up at the request of Santos' chairman following a revolt by Santos' Brazilian fans.[18] In 1961 the government of Brazil under President Jânio Quadros declared Pelé an "official national treasure" to prevent him from being transferred out of the country.[9][19]

Pelé with Santos in the Netherlands, October 1962

Pelé won his first major title with Santos in 1958 as the team won the Campeonato Paulista; Pelé would finish the tournament as top scorer with 58 goals,[20] a record that stands today. A year later, he would help the team earn their first victory in the Torneio Rio-São Paulo with a 3–0 over Vasco da Gama.[21] However, Santos was unable to retain the Paulista title. In 1960, Pelé scored 33 goals to help his team regain the Campeonato Paulista trophy but lost out on the Rio-São Paulo tournament after finishing in 8th place.[22] In the 1960 season, Pelé scored 47 goals and helped Santos regain the Campeonato Paulista. The club went on to win the Taça Brasil that same year, beating Bahia in the finals; Pelé finished as top scorer of the tournament with 9 goals. The victory allowed Santos to participate in the Copa Libertadores, the most prestigious club tournament in the Western hemisphere.[23]

"I arrived hoping to stop a great man, but I went away convinced I had been undone by someone who was not born on the same planet as the rest of us."

—Benfica goalkeeper Costa Pereira following the loss to Santos in 1962.[24]

Santos's most successful Copa Libertadores season started in 1962;[25] the team was seeded in Group One alongside Cerro Porteño and Deportivo Municipal Bolivia, winning every match of their group but one (a 1–1 away tie versus Cerro). Santos defeated Universidad Católica in the semi-finals and met defending champions Peñarol in the finals. Pelé scored twice in the playoff match to secure the first title for a Brazilian club.[26] Pelé finished as the second top scorer of the competition with four goals. That same year, Santos would successfully defend the Campeonato Paulista (with 37 goals from Pelé) and the Taça Brasil (Pelé scoring four goals in the final series against Botafogo). Santos would also win the 1962 Intercontinental Cup against Benfica.[27] Wearing his number 10 shirt, Pelé produced one of the best performances of his career, scoring a hat-trick in Lisbon as Santos won 5–2.[28][29]

Pelé pictured prior to facing Boca Juniors in the second leg of 1963 Copa Libertadores Finals at La Bombonera in Buenos Aires. He is the all-time leading goalscorer for Santos FC

As the defending champions, Santos qualified automatically to the semi-final stage of the 1963 Copa Libertadores. The ballet blanco, the nickname given to Santos for Pelé, managed to retain the title after victories over Botafogo and Boca Juniors. Pelé helped Santos overcome a Botafogo team that featured Brazilian greats such as Garrincha and Jairzinho with a last-minute goal in the first leg of the semi-finals which made it 1–1. In the second leg, Pelé scored a hat-trick in the Estádio do Maracanã as Santos won, 0–4, in the second leg. Santos started the final series by winning, 3–2, in the first leg and defeating Boca Juniors 1–2, in La Bombonera. It was a rare feat in official competitions, with another goal from Pelé.[30] Santos became the first (and to date the only) Brazilian team to lift the Copa Libertadores in Argentine soil. Pelé finished the tournament with 5 goals. Santos lost the Campeonato Paulista after finishing in third place but went on to win the Rio-São Paulo tournament after a 0–3 win over Flamengo in the final, with Pelé scoring one goal. Pelé would also help Santos retain the Intercontinental Cup and the Taça Brasil against Milan and Bahia respectively.[27]

In the 1964 Copa Libertadores, Santos were beaten in both legs of the semi-finals by Independiente. The club won the Campeonato Paulista, with Pelé netting 34 goals. Santos also shared the Rio-São Paulo title with Botafogo and won the Taça Brasil for the fourth consecutive year. In the 1965 Copa Libertadores, Santos reached the semi-finals and met Peñarol in a rematch of the 1962 final. After two matches, a playoff was needed to break the tie.[31] Unlike 1962, Peñarol came out on top and eliminated Santos 2–1.[31] Pelé would, however, finish as the topscorer of the tournament with eight goals.[32] This proved to be the start of a decline as Santos failed to retain the Torneio Rio-São Paulo. In 1966, Pelé and Santos also failed to retain the Taça Brasil as Pelé's goals were not enough to prevent a 9–4 defeat by Cruzeiro (led by Tostão) in the final series. The club did, however, win the Campeonato Paulista in 1967, 1968 and 1969. On 19 November 1969, Pelé scored his 1000th goal in all competitions, in what was a highly anticipated moment in Brazil. The goal, dubbed O Milésimo (The Thousandth), occurred in a match against Vasco da Gama, when Pelé scored from a penalty kick, at the Maracanã Stadium.[33]

Pelé states that his most memorable goal was scored at Rua Javari stadium on a Campeonato Paulista match against São Paulo rival Clube Atlético Juventus on 2 August 1959. As there is no video footage of this match, Pelé asked that a computer animation be made of this specific goal.[34] In March 1961, Pelé scored the gol de placa (goal worthy of a plaque), against Fluminense at the Maracanã.[35] Pelé received the ball on the edge of his own penalty area, and ran the length of the field, eluding opposition players with feints, before striking the ball beyond the goalkeeper.[35] A plaque was commissioned with a dedication to "the most beautiful goal in the history of the Maracanã".[36]

In 1969, the two factions involved in the Nigerian Civil War agreed to a 48-hour ceasefire so they could watch Pelé play an exhibition game in Lagos. Santos ended up playing to a 2–2 draw with Lagos side Stationary Stores FC and Pelé scored his team's goals. The civil war went on for one more year after this game.[37] During his time at Santos, Pelé played alongside many gifted players, including Zito, Pepe, and Coutinho; the latter partnered him in numerous one-two plays, attacks, and goals.[38] Pelé‘s 643 goals for Santos was the most goals scored for a single club until it was surpassed by Lionel Messi of Barcelona in December 2020.[39][40]

New York Cosmos

Pelé signing a football for U.S. President Richard Nixon at the White House in 1973, two years before joining the New York Cosmos

After the 1974 season (his 19th with Santos), Pelé retired from Brazilian club football although he continued to occasionally play for Santos in official competitive matches. Two years later, he came out of semi-retirement to sign with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League (NASL) for the 1975 season.[41] At a chaotic press conference at New York’s 21 Club, the Cosmos unveiled Pelé. John O'Reilly, the club's media spokesman, stated, "We had superstars in the United States but nothing at the level of Pelé. Everyone wanted to touch him, shake his hand, get a photo with him."[42] Though well past his prime at this point, Pelé was credited with significantly increasing public awareness and interest of the sport in the US.[43] During his first public appearance in Boston, he was injured by a crowd of fans who had surrounded him and was evacuated on a stretcher.[44]

Pelé entering the field to play his first game with the Cosmos, 15 June 1975

Pelé made his debut for the Cosmos on 15 June 1975 against the Dallas Tornado at Downing Stadium, scoring one goal in a 2–2 draw.[45] Pelé opened the door for many other stars to play in North America. Giorgio Chinaglia followed him to the Cosmos, then Franz Beckenbauer and his former Santos teammate Carlos Alberto. Over the next few years other players came to the league, including Johan Cruyff, Eusebio, Bobby Moore, George Best and Gordon Banks.[43]

In 1975, one week before the Lebanese Civil War, Pelé played a friendly game for the Lebanese club Nejmeh against a team of Lebanese Premier League stars,[46] scoring two goals which were not included in his official tally.[47][48] On the day of the game, 40,000 spectators were at the stadium from early morning to watch the match.[46]

Hoping to fuel the same kind of awareness in the Dominican Republic, he and the Cosmos team played in an exhibition match against Haitian team, Violette AC, in the Santo Domingo Olympic Stadium on 3 June 1976, where over 25,000 fans watched him score a winning goal in the last seconds of the match, leading the Cosmos to a 2–1 victory.[49] He led the Cosmos to the 1977 NASL championship, in his third and final season with the club.[50]

In June 1977, the Cosmos attracted an NASL record 62,394 fans to Giants Stadium for a 3–0 victory past the Tampa Bay Rowdies with a 37-year-old Pelé scoring a hat-trick. In the first leg of the quarter-finals, they attracted a US record crowd of 77,891 for what turned into an 8–3 rout of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Giants Stadium. In the second leg of the semi-finals against the Rochester Lancers, the Cosmos won 4–1.[43] Pelé finished his official playing career by leading the New York Cosmos to their first Soccer Bowl title with a 2–1 win over the Seattle Sounders at the Civic Stadium in Portland, Oregon.[51]

On 1 October 1977, Pelé closed out his career in an exhibition match between the Cosmos and Santos. The match was played in front of a sold-out crowd at Giants Stadium and was televised in the US on ABC's Wide World of Sports as well as throughout the world. Pelé's father and wife both attended the match, as well as Muhammad Ali and Bobby Moore.[52] Delivering a message to the audience prior to the start of the game—“Love is more important than what we can take in life”—Pelé played the first half with the Cosmos, the second with Santos. The game ended with the Cosmos winning 2–1, with Pelé scoring with a 30-yard free-kick for the Cosmos in what was the final goal of his career. During the second half it started to rain, prompting a Brazilian newspaper to come out with the headline the following day: "Even The Sky Was Crying."[53]

Pelé Club career articles: 79

International career

Pelé's first international match was a 2–1 defeat against Argentina on 7 July 1957 at the Maracanã.[54][55] In that match, he scored his first goal for Brazil aged 16 years and nine months, and he remains the youngest goalscorer for his country.[56][57]

1958 World Cup

Pelé (number 10) dribbles past three Swedish players at the 1958 World Cup

Pelé arrived in Sweden sidelined by a knee injury but on his return from the treatment room, his colleagues stood together and insisted upon his selection.[58] His first match was against the USSR in the third match of the first round of the 1958 FIFA World Cup, where he gave the assist to Vavá's second goal.[59] He was at the time the youngest player ever to participate in the World Cup.[note 2][55] Against France in the semi-final, Brazil was leading 2–1 at halftime, and then Pelé scored a hat-trick, becoming the youngest in World Cup history to do so.[61]

17-year-old Pelé cries on the shoulder of goalkeeper Gilmar after Brazil won the 1958 World Cup Final

On 29 June 1958, Pelé became the youngest player to play in a World Cup final match at 17 years and 249 days. He scored two goals in that final as Brazil beat Sweden 5–2 in Stockholm, the capital. Pelé hit the post and then Vavá scored two goals to give Brazil the lead. His first goal where he flicked the ball over a defender before volleying into the corner of the net, was selected as one of the best goals in the history of the World Cup.[62] Following Pelé's second goal, Swedish player Sigvard Parling would later comment; "When Pelé scored the fifth goal in that Final, I have to be honest and say I felt like applauding".[63] When the match ended, Pelé passed out on the field, and was revived by Garrincha.[64] He then recovered, and was compelled by the victory to weep as he was being congratulated by his teammates. He finished the tournament with six goals in four matches played, tied for second place, behind record-breaker Just Fontaine, and was named best young player of the tournament.[65]

It was in the 1958 World Cup that Pelé began wearing a jersey with number 10. The event was the result of disorganization: the leaders of the Brazilian Federation did not allocate the shirt numbers of players and it was up to FIFA to choose the number 10 shirt for Pelé who was a substitute on the occasion.[66] The press proclaimed Pelé the greatest revelation of the 1958 World Cup, and he was also retroactively given the Silver Ball as the second best player of the tournament, behind Didi.[63]

South American Championship

Pelé also played in the South American Championship. In the 1959 competition he was named best player of the tournament and was top scorer with 8 goals, as Brazil came second despite being unbeaten in the tournament.[63][67] He scored in five of Brazil's six games, including two goals against Chile and a hat-trick against Paraguay.[68]

1962 World Cup

Pelé with Brazil taking on Italy's Giovanni Trapattoni at the San Siro, Milan in 1963

When the 1962 World Cup started, Pelé was the best rated player in the world.[69] In the first match of the 1962 World Cup in Chile, against Mexico, Pelé assisted the first goal and then scored the second one, after a run past four defenders, to go up 2–0.[70] He injured himself in the next game while attempting a long-range shot against Czechoslovakia.[71] This would keep him out of the rest of the tournament, and forced coach Aymoré Moreira to make his only lineup change of the tournament. The substitute was Amarildo, who performed well for the rest of the tournament. However, it was Garrincha who would take the leading role and carry Brazil to their second World Cup title, after beating Czechoslovakia at the final in Santiago.[72]

1966 World Cup

Pelé was the most famous footballer in the world during the 1966 World Cup in England, and Brazil fielded some world champions like Garrincha, Gilmar and Djalma Santos with the addition of other stars like Jairzinho, Tostão and Gérson, leading to high expectations for them.[73] Brazil was eliminated in the first round, playing only three matches.[73] The World Cup was marked, among other things, for brutal fouls on Pelé that left him injured by the Bulgarian and Portuguese defenders.[74]

Pelé scored the first goal from a free kick against Bulgaria, becoming the first player to score in three successive FIFA World Cups, but due to his injury, a result of persistent fouling by the Bulgarians, he missed the second game against Hungary.[73] His coach stated that after the first game he felt "every team will take care of him in the same manner".[74] Brazil lost that game and Pelé, although still recovering, was brought back for the last crucial match against Portugal at Goodison Park in Liverpool by the Brazilian coach Vicente Feola. Feola changed the entire defense, including the goalkeeper, while in midfield he returned to the formation of the first match. During the game, Portugal defender João Morais fouled Pelé, but was not sent off by referee George McCabe; a decision retrospectively viewed as being among the worst refereeing errors in World Cup history.[75] Pelé had to stay on the field limping for the rest of the game, since substitutes were not allowed at that time.[75] After this game he vowed he would never again play in the World Cup, a decision he would later change.[69]

1970 World Cup

Pelé trading card from the Mexico 70 series issued by Panini

Pelé was called to the national team in early 1969, he refused at first, but then accepted and played in six World Cup qualifying matches, scoring six goals.[76] The 1970 World Cup in Mexico was expected to be Pelé's last. Brazil's squad for the tournament featured major changes in relation to the 1966 squad. Players like Garrincha, Nilton Santos, Valdir Pereira, Djalma Santos and Gilmar had already retired. However, Brazil's 1970 World Cup squad, which included players like Pelé, Rivelino, Jairzinho, Gérson, Carlos Alberto Torres, Tostão and Clodoaldo, is often considered to be the greatest football team in history.[77][78]

Mário Zagallo, Brazil's 1970 coach, with Pelé in 2008. Zagallo said of Pelé: "A kid in Sweden [1958 World Cup] gave signs of genius, and in Mexico [1970 World Cup] he fulfilled all that promise and closed the book with a golden key. And I had the privilege to see it all from close up."[79]

The front five of Jairzinho, Pelé, Gerson, Tostão and Rivelino together created an attacking momentum, with Pelé having a central role in Brazil's way to the final.[80] All of Brazil's matches in the tournament (except the final) were played in Guadalajara, and in the first match against Czechoslovakia, Pelé gave Brazil a 2–1 lead, by controlling Gerson's long pass with his chest and then scoring. In this match Pelé attempted to lob goalkeeper Ivo Viktor from the half-way line, only narrowly missing the Czechoslovak goal.[81] Brazil went on to win the match, 4–1. In the first half of the match against England, Pelé nearly scored with a header that was saved by the England goalkeeper Gordon Banks. Pelé recalled he was already shouting “Goal” when he headed the ball. It was often referred to as the “save of the century.”[82] In the second half, he controlled a cross from Tostão before flicking the ball to Jairzinho who scored the only goal.[83]

Against Romania, Pelé scored two goals, which included a 20-yard bending free-kick, with Brazil winning 3–2. In the quarter-final against Peru, Brazil won 4–2, with Pelé assisting Tostão for Brazil's third goal. In the semi-final, Brazil faced Uruguay for the first time since the 1950 World Cup final round match. Jairzinho put Brazil ahead 2–1, and Pelé assisted Rivelino for the 3–1. During that match, Pelé made one of his most famous plays. Tostão passed the ball for Pelé to collect which Uruguay's goalkeeper Ladislao Mazurkiewicz took notice of and ran off his line to get the ball before Pelé. However, Pelé got there first and fooled Mazurkiewicz with a feint by not touching the ball, causing it to roll to the goalkeepers left, while Pelé went to the goalkeepers right. Pelé ran around the goalkeeper to retrieve the ball and took a shot while turning towards the goal, but he turned in excess as he shot, and the ball drifted just wide of the far post.[81][84]

Brazil played Italy in the final at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.[85] Pelé scored the opening goal with a header after outjumping Italian defender Tarcisio Burgnich. Brazil's 100th World Cup goal, Pelé's leap of joy into the arms of teammate Jairzinho in celebrating the goal is regarded as one of the most iconic moments in World Cup history.[86] He then made assists for Brazil's third goal, scored by Jairzinho, and the fourth finished by Carlos Alberto. The last goal of the game is often considered the greatest team goal of all time because it involved all but two of the team's outfield players. The play culminated after Pelé made a blind pass that went into Carlos Alberto's running trajectory. He came running from behind and struck the ball to score.[87] Brazil won the match 4–1, keeping the Jules Rimet Trophy indefinitely, and Pelé received the Golden Ball as player of the tournament.[63][88] Burgnich, who marked Pelé during the final, was quoted saying "I told myself before the game, he's made of skin and bones just like everyone else – but I was wrong".[89] In terms of his goals and assist throughout the 1970 World Cup, Pelé was directly responsible for 53% of Brazil's goals throughout the tournament.[90]

Pelé's last international match was on 18 July 1971 against Yugoslavia in Rio de Janeiro. With Pelé on the field, the Brazilian team's record was 67 wins, 14 draws and 11 losses.[76] Brazil never lost a match while fielding both Pelé and Garrincha.[91]

Pelé International career articles: 57

Style of play

Pelé dribbling past a defender while playing for Brazil, May 1960

Pelé has also been known for connecting the phrase "The Beautiful Game" with football.[92] A prolific goalscorer, he was known for his ability to anticipate opponents in the area and finish off chances with an accurate and powerful shot with either foot.[3][93][94] Pelé was also a hard-working team-player, and a complete forward, with exceptional vision and intelligence, who was recognised for his precise passing, and ability to link-up with teammates and provide them with assists.[95][96][97]

In his early career, he played in a variety of attacking positions. Although he usually operated inside the penalty area as a main striker or centre forward, his wide range of skills also allowed him to play in a more withdrawn role, as an inside forward or second striker, or out wide.[81][95][98] In his later career, he took on more of a deeper playmaking role behind the strikers, often functioning as an attacking midfielder.[99][100] Pelé's unique playing style combined speed, creativity, and technical skill with physical power, stamina, and athleticism. His excellent technique, balance, flair, agility, and dribbling skills enabled him to beat opponents with the ball, and frequently saw him use sudden changes of direction and elaborate feints in order to get past players, such as his trademark move, the drible da vaca.[81][98][101] Another one of his signature moves was the paradinha, or little stop.[note 3][102]

Despite his relatively small stature, 5 feet 8 inches (1.73 m),[103] he excelled in the air, due to his heading accuracy, timing, and elevation.[93][96][101][104] Renowned for his bending shots, he was also an accurate free-kick taker, and penalty taker, although he often refrained from taking penalties, stating that he believed it to be a cowardly way to score.[105][106]

Pelé was also known to be a fair and highly influential player, who stood out for his charismatic leadership and sportsmanship on the pitch. His warm embrace of Bobby Moore following the Brazil vs England game at the 1970 World Cup is viewed as the embodiment of sportsmanship, with The New York Times stating the image "captured the respect that two great players had for each other. As they exchanged jerseys, touches and looks, the sportsmanship between them is all in the image. No gloating, no fist-pumping from Pelé. No despair, no defeatism from Bobby Moore."[107] Pelé also earned a reputation for often being a decisive player for his teams, due to his tendency to score crucial goals in important matches.[108][109][110]

Pelé Style of play articles: 5

Reception and legacy

"Pelé was one of the few who contradicted my theory: instead of 15 minutes of fame, he will have 15 centuries."

Andy Warhol.[24]

"My name is Ronald Reagan, I'm the President of the United States of America. But you don't need to introduce yourself, because everyone knows who Pelé is."

—US President Ronald Reagan, greeting Pelé at the White House.[24]

Among the most successful and popular sports figures of the 20th century,[111] Pelé is one of the most lauded players in the history of football and has been frequently ranked the best player ever.[112][113][114] Among his contemporaries, Dutch star Johan Cruyff stated; "Pelé was the only footballer who surpassed the boundaries of logic."[24] Brazil's 1970 FIFA World Cup-winning captain Carlos Alberto Torres opined; "His great secret was improvisation. Those things he did were in one moment. He had an extraordinary perception of the game."[24] Tostão, his strike partner at the 1970 World Cup; "Pelé was the greatest – he was simply flawless. And off the pitch he is always smiling and upbeat. You never see him bad-tempered. He loves being Pelé."[24] His Brazilian teammate Clodoaldo commented on the adulation he witnessed; "In some countries they wanted to touch him, in some they wanted to kiss him. In others they even kissed the ground he walked on. I thought it was beautiful, just beautiful."[24]

Pelé is the greatest player of all time. He reigned supreme for 20 years. There's no one to compare with him.

— West Germany's 1974 World Cup-winning captain Franz Beckenbauer.[63]

Former Real Madrid and Hungary star Ferenc Puskás stated; "The greatest player in history was Di Stéfano. I refuse to classify Pelé as a player. He was above that."[24] Just Fontaine, French striker and leading scorer at the 1958 World Cup; "When I saw Pelé play, it made me feel I should hang up my boots."[24] England's 1966 FIFA World Cup-winning captain Bobby Moore commented: "Pelé was the most complete player I've ever seen, he had everything. Two good feet. Magic in the air. Quick. Powerful. Could beat people with skill. Could outrun people. Only five feet and eight inches tall, yet he seemed a giant of an athlete on the pitch. Perfect balance and impossible vision. He was the greatest because he could do anything and everything on a football pitch. I remember Saldanha the coach being asked by a Brazilian journalist who was the best goalkeeper in his squad. He said Pelé. The man could play in any position".[93] Former Manchester United striker and member of England's 1966 FIFA World Cup-winning team Sir Bobby Charlton stated; "I sometimes feel as though football was invented for this magical player."[24] During the 1970 World Cup, when Manchester United defender Paddy Crerand (who was part of the ITV panel) was asked; "How do you spell Pelé?", he replied with the response; "Easy: G-O-D."[24]

Accolades

1969 Brazil postage stamp commemorating Pelé's landmark 1,000th goal

Since retiring, Pelé has continued to be lauded by players, coaches, journalists and others. Brazilian attacking midfielder Zico, who represented Brazil at the 1978, 1982 and 1986 FIFA World Cup, stated; "This debate about the player of the century is absurd. There's only one possible answer: Pelé. He's the greatest player of all time, and by some distance I might add".[63] French three time Ballon d'Or winner Michel Platini said; "There's Pelé the man, and then Pelé the player. And to play like Pelé is to play like God."[115] Diego Maradona, joint FIFA Player of the Century, and the player Pelé is historically compared with, stated; "It's too bad we never got along, but he was an awesome player".[63] Prolific Brazilian striker Romário, winner of the 1994 FIFA World Cup and player of the tournament; "It's only inevitable I look up to Pelé. He's like a God to us".[63] Five-time FIFA Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo said: "Pelé is the greatest player in football history, and there will only be one Pelé", while José Mourinho, two-time UEFA Champions League winning manager, commented; "I think he is football. You have the real special one – Mr. Pelé."[116] Real Madrid honorary president and former player, Alfredo Di Stéfano, opined: "The best player ever? Pelé. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are both great players with specific qualities, but Pelé was better".[117]

Pelé wearing the Cosmos' No. 10. The number was retired in his honor.

Presenting Pelé the Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award, former South African president Nelson Mandela said; "To watch him play was to watch the delight of a child combined with the extraordinary grace of a man in full."[118] US politician and political scientist Henry Kissinger stated, "Performance at a high level in any sport is to exceed the ordinary human scale. But Pelé's performance transcended that of the ordinary star by as much as the star exceeds ordinary performance."[119] After a reporter asked if his fame compared to that of Jesus, Pelé quipped, "There are parts of the world where Jesus Christ is not so well known."[89]

In 1999, the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) voted Pelé the World Player of the Century. That same year, the International Olympic Committee elected him the Athlete of the Century. In 1999, Time magazine named Pelé one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century. During his playing days, Pelé was for a period the highest-paid athlete in the world.[120] Pelé's "electrifying play and penchant for spectacular goals" made him a star around the world. To take full advantage of his popularity, his teams toured internationally.[3] During his career, he became known as "The Black Pearl" (A Pérola Negra), "The King of Football" (O Rei do Futebol), "The King Pelé" (O Rei Pelé) or simply "The King" (O Rei).[9] In 2014, the city of Santos inaugurated the Pelé museum – Museu Pelé – which displays a 2,400 piece collection of Pelé memorabilia.[121] Approximately $22 million was invested in the construction of the museum, housed in a 19th-century mansion.[122]

Young visitors to the Pelé Museum, opened in 2014, in Santos, Brazil

In January 2014, Pelé was awarded the first ever FIFA Ballon d'Or Prix d'Honneur as an acknowledgment from the world governing body of the sport for his contribution to world football.[123] After changing the rules in 1995, France Football did an extensive analysis in 2015 of the players who would have won the award if it was open for them since 1956—the year the Ballon d'Or award started. Their study revealed that Pelé would have received the award a record seven times (Ballon d'or: Le nouveau palmarès). The original recipients, however, remain unchanged.[124]

According to the RSSSF, Pelé is one of the most successful goal-scorers in the world, scoring 541 league goals in 560 games (IFFHS recognized them as top division in 2006), a total of 767 in 831 official games and a grand total of 1281 goals in 1367 appearances during his professional senior career, which included friendlies and tour games. He's ranked the third leading scorer in football history in both official and total matches. After his retirement in 1977 he played eight exhibition games and scored three goals.[125]

Pelé Reception and legacy articles: 22

Personal life

Relationships and children

Children of Pelé
  • By Anizia Machado
    • Sandra (1964–2006)
  • By Lenita Kurtz
    • Flávia (born 1968)
  • By Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi
    • Kelly Cristina (born 1967)
    • Edson (born 1970)
    • Jennifer (born 1978)
  • By Assíria Lemos Seixas
    • Joshua (born 1996)
    • Celeste (born 1996)
A practicing Catholic, Pelé donated a signed jersey to Pope Francis. Accompanied with a signed football from Ronaldo, it is located in one of the Vatican Museums.[126]

Pelé has married three times, and has had several affairs, producing several children.

On 21 February 1966, Pelé married Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi.[127] They had two daughters and one son: Kelly Cristina (born 13 January 1967), who married Dr. Arthur DeLuca, Jennifer (b. 1978), and their son Edson ("Edinho", b. 27 August 1970). The couple divorced in 1982.[128] In May 2014, Edinho was jailed for 33 years for laundering money from drug trafficking.[129] On appeal the sentence was reduced to 12 years and 10 months.[130]

From 1981 to 1986, Pelé was romantically linked with TV presenter Xuxa, which was influential in launching her career. She was 17 when they started dating.[131] In April 1994, Pelé married psychologist and gospel singer Assíria Lemos Seixas, who gave birth on 28 September 1996 to twins Joshua and Celeste through fertility treatments. The couple divorced in 2008.[132]

Pelé had at least two more children from former affairs. Sandra Machado, who was born from an affair Pelé had in 1964 with a housemaid, Anizia Machado, fought for years to be acknowledged by Pelé, who refused to submit to DNA tests.[133][134][135] Although she was recognized by courts as his biological daughter based on DNA evidence in 1993, Pelé never acknowledged his eldest daughter even after her death in 2006, nor her two children, Octavio and Gabriel.[134][135] Pelé also had another daughter, Flávia Kurtz, in an extramarital affair in 1968 with journalist Lenita Kurtz. Flávia was recognized by him as his daughter.[133]

At the age of 73, Pelé announced his intention to marry 41-year-old Marcia Aoki, a Japanese-Brazilian importer of medical equipment from Penápolis, São Paulo, whom he had been dating from 2010. They first met in the mid-1980s in New York, before meeting again in 2008.[136] They married in July 2016.[137]

Politics

In 1970, Pelé was investigated by the Brazilian military dictatorship for suspected leftist sympathies. Declassified documents showed Pelé was investigated after being handed a manifesto calling for the release of political prisoners. Pelé himself did not get further involved within political struggles in the country.[138]

In 1976, Pelé was on a Pepsi-sponsored trip in Lagos, Nigeria, when that year's attempted military coup took place. Pelé was trapped in a hotel together with Arthur Ashe and other tennis pros, who were participating in the interrupted 1976 Lagos WCT tournament. Pelé and his crew eventually left the hotel to stay at the residence of Brazil's ambassador as they couldn't leave the country for a couple of days. Later the airport was opened and Pelé left the country disguised as a pilot.[139][140]

In June 2013, he was criticized in public opinion for his conservative views.[141][142] During the 2013 protests in Brazil, Pelé asked for people to "forget the demonstrations" and support the Brazil national team.[143]

Health

In 1977, Brazilian media reported that Pelé had his right kidney removed.[144] In November 2012, Pelé underwent a successful hip operation.[145] In December 2017, Pelé appeared in a wheelchair at the 2018 World Cup draw in Moscow where he was pictured with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Diego Maradona.[146] A month later he collapsed from exhaustion and was taken to hospital.[146] In 2019, after a hospitalisation because of a urinary tract infection, Pelé underwent surgery to remove kidney stones.[147] In February 2020 his son Edinho reported that Pelé was unable to walk independently and reluctant to leave home, ascribing his condition to a lack of rehabilitation following his hip operation.[148]

Public image

Pelé is known for frequently referring to himself in the third person.[149][150]

Pelé Personal life articles: 16

After football

Pelé at the White House on 10 September 1986, with U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Brazil President José Sarney

In 1994, Pelé was appointed a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.[151] In 1995, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso appointed Pelé to the position of Extraordinary Minister for Sport. During this time he proposed legislation to reduce corruption in Brazilian football, which became known as the "Pelé law."[152] The Brazilian President had eliminated the post of Sports Minister in 1998.