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|Edson Arantes de Nascimento
|DATE and PLACE OF BIRTH
|21 October 1940, TrêsCorações, Brazil
|Santos, New York Cosmos, Brazilian national team
Edson Arantes de Nascimento, or Pele as the world knows him, is a three-time World Cup winner and widely believed to be the greatest football player to have graced this planet. In 1999, he was voted the greatest player of the century by France Football. He was a prolific goal scorer and one of the most multi-dimensional players the world has seen. He had a staggering domestic and international career, one which spanned 21 years.
Pele was born in TresCoracoes, Minas Gerais to a footballer father. After leading his youth side to multiple championships, he was able to land a professional contract with Santos. He made his senior debut for the side in 1956 at age 16. The next year he cemented his place in the starting line up and ended the season as the league’s top scorer. In 1958, Pele won his first major title when he scored a record 58 goals in the Campeonato Paulista.
After winning a host of tournaments over the next few years, Santos’ most successful season came in 1962 when they won the Copa Libertadores. That same year Santos defended their Campeonato Brasiliero and TacaBrasil. They even went on to win the Intercontinental Cup that same year in which Pele put in an exemplary performance in the final against Benfica. The following season Santos defended their Copa Libertadores title, beating Boca Juniors in the final. After winning several other titles, Pele entered a semi retirement in 1974. In 1975, he signed for American side New York Cosmos. He is credited with spreading the word about the American game throughout world football. In 1977, he played his last game in an exhibition between Santos and New York Cosmos.
The world sat up and took notice of Pele at the 1958 World Cup. His hattrick against France in the semi final helped Brazil enter the final against hosts, Sweden. The final was one of the most one sided in the competition’s history as Brazil ran out 5-2 winners. Pele scored two of his side’s goals, one of them, a controlled volley, is widely accepted to be one of the World Cup’s best. It was at this tournament that Pele started wearing his famed No. 10 jersey.
At the next edition, Pele was touted to be the player of the tournament but an injury early on in the tournament kept him out of the latter stages of the tournament. A Garrincha-inspired Brazil went on to defend its title. After a disappointing 1966 World Cup, Brazil went to Mexico for the 1970 World Cup. The Brazil team of the ‘70 World Cup is generally considered to be one of the greatest teams of all time. They won the tournament at a canter, beating Italy in the final 4-1. Pele scored one and assisted two of the lot. He was named player of the tournament.
Pele has an astounding list of personal and team achievements. With Santos he won two Copa Libertadores’ and one Intercontinental Supercup in addition to the numerous domestic titles. In the golds of the Selecao, he won the World Cup thrice. He won the Silver Ball for the 1958 tournament and the Golden Ball in the 1970 World Cup. He is also the all-time leading scorer of the Brazilian national team. Pele also holds the astounding record of having scored 1,281 goals in 1,363 games for club sides. In a World Cup Football Federationceremony in 2000, he was voted the Greatest Player of the Century.
Pele’s parents named him after the great American inventor, Thomas Edison,however, without the ‘i’. As to the origin of the name he’s known by, it is said that he idolized the Vasco da Gama goalkeeper, Bile, while growing up. His pronunciation of the name sounded a lot like ‘Pele’. His friends started calling him that because he misspoke and the name stuck.
Another famous anecdote of Pele’s fame in Brazil comes from after the 1958 World Cup. The then 17-year-old’s performances made all the big European clubs sit up and take notice. However, the Brazilian government declared him an “official national treasure” to prevent his transfer out of the country.
In 1970, Pele was investigated, covertly, for having leftist sympathies by the military dictatorship at the time after he called for the release of political prisoners.
Pele’s legacy continues to live on today. It is said that when Pele went to the White House, President Ronald Reagan said to him, “My name is Ronald Regan. I am the President of the United States. But you do not need to introduce yourself. Everyone knows who Pele is.” This just goes to show the global status Pele has achieved. All former players speak of him in glowing terms. A law in Brazil legislated to reduce corruption in football in the country is also name after him.