The Man Who Took the World by Storm: The Life and Legacy of Pelé

life of Pelé

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The soccer legend who died on 29 December 2022 needs no definition. Pelé was rightly hailed as O Rei or The King for his electrifying play in the game of football. He was the most successful and popular sportsman of the 20th century and the first black global sporting star from Brazil. He was a football genius with great abilities and a national hero who was outspoken towards the policies to improve the conditions of the poor. Pelé’s demise has left the entire world shaken as it has lost one of the gems of soccer and life itself. In this article, we will discuss the life of charismatic soccer legend Pelé, his early life, family, style of play, illustrious soccer career, achievements, awards, and death. We also have an FAQ section where some of your compelling questions will be answered.

Pelé’s Early Life and Family

  • Edson Arantes do Nascimento or Pelé was born on 23 October 1940, at Três Corações, Minas Gerais, Brazil.
  • His father was Fluminense footballer Dondinho and his mother was Celeste Arantes.
  • Edson Arantes do Nascimento (Pelé) was named after the great American inventor Thomas Alva Edison.
  • His family was poverty-stricken. He worked in tea shops as a servant.
  • Pelé received his nickname “Pele” at school when he mispronounced Bile, his favorite goalkeeper of Vasco Da Gama sports club. The name “Pele” in Hebrew means “miracle”.
  • Pelé was too poor to afford a football. That is why he played with newspaper stuffed in a sock and tied to a string or a grapefruit.
  • Pelé had played for several amateur teams.
  • As a teenager, he played in Radium ( a popular futsal team in Bauru) that often emerged victorious.
  • Regarding personality,Pelé was a gentleman with a radiant smile both on and off the pitch.

 Illustrious Playing Career of Pelé

  • Pelé signed a professional contract with Santos FC in Sao Paulo at the age of fifteen. In a senior team of the club, he led a 7-1 victory against Corinthians de Santo Andre scoring the first goal in his prolific sports career.
  • Several wealthy clubs tried to sign him in but in vain.
  • The government of Brazil led by President Janio Quadros declared him an “official national treasure” which prevented him from being transferred to other countries.
  • Pelé won his first major title (Paulista) with 58 goals in the Campeonato Paulista in 1958.
  • Pelé earns the first victory in Torneio Rio-Sao Paulo, scoring 3-0 over Vasco da Gama.
  • The magical Brazilian football star participates in the most prestigious club tournament Copa Libertadores because of winning the Taca Brasil finals against Bahia. He wins 2 titles of Copa Libertadores in 1962 and 1963.
  • Pelé performed at the first World Cup (1st January) in Sweden in the year 1958.
  • Santos wins the 1962 Intercontinental Cup against Benfica, scoring a hat-trick. It was one of the best performances of Pele’s career.
  • Pelé led his Brazilian team Santos to three national club championships and two South American Championships.
  • After four years after the first World Cup, Brazil wins the 1962 World Cup held in Chile.
  • In 1966 (1st January) Pelé representing Brazil loses the World Cup held in England.
  • In 1969, Pelé makes his 1000th goal.
  • In the 4th World Cup (1st January 1970) held in Mexico, Pelé wins the game.
  • On July 18, 1971, Pelé played his last international match.
  • On June 10, 1975, Pelé joins the New York Cosmos.
  • On October 1, 1977, Pelé retired from his “beautiful game” of football.

What was Pelé’s Style of Playing Football?

  • Pelé, the Brazilian star was a charismatic soccer player and he exhibited the spirit of sportsmanship in the best possible way.
  • He was an expert in striking the football with a powerful shot with either foot while simultaneously anticipating the opponent’s moves in the field.
  • Pelé was a visionary team player who could perform incredible passing and link up with other players and provide them with assists.
  • Pelé mentions that playing futsal made him a player who could think on the spot.
  • Pelé had great dribbling skills.
  • Although the main striker or center forward in his early career, he also played as an inside forward, second striker, or out wide.
  • He could drop deep and assume a playmaking role, often functioning as an attacking midfielder.
  • Pelé had several skills that are an absolute must for an exceptional soccer player like speed, creativity, stamina, balance, flair, agility, technical skill, and many more.
  • Pelé’s style of playing soccer included sudden unexpected changes of direction (feints/dummies) to get past players such as dribble da vaca (Pelé’s signature move).
  • The other trademark move of Pelé was the little stop or paradinha where the player comes to a virtual standstill before deciding which direction to shoot the ball.
  • Pelé was also famous for his bending shots and he was an accurate free-kick taker.

What are the Main Achievements, Titles, and Awards of Pelé?

Pelé has countless achievements to mention, but we are presenting only the top record-breaking achievements by him in the game of football:

  • Pelé makes a Guinness World Record by scoring 1,279 goals in 1,363 matches (including exhibition games). He was named the best soccer player of the 20th century.
  • He won 3 FIFA World Cups held in the years 1958, 1962, and 1970. He is the only player to have led the team to victory thrice. No other player has won two World Cups both as a leader of the team.
  • At 17 years of age, Pelé becomes the youngest winner of a World Cup in 1958.
  • He is Santos’s all-time top goalscorer with 643 goals in 659 games.
  • He was a 1-time NASL Soccer Bowl Champion and 2 times Intercontinental Cup Winner.
  • Pelé has made 92 hat tricks across official and unofficial games.
  • He scored 9 goals in Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A and 8 goals in Campeonato Sudamericano 1959.
  • After retirement in 1977, Pele became the worldwide ambassador for football.
  • He became the Honorary President of New York Cosmos in 2010.
  • Pelé became a recipient of the International Peace award on May 18, 1978.
  • In 1993, Pelé was inducted into the legendary National Soccer Hall of Fame.
  • In 1997, Pelé becomes the Sports Minister.

How did Pelé Die?

  • The cause behind Pelé’s death was colon cancer. It was a long battle with cancer. He died at the age of 82 due to “multiple organ failure” as reported by the Albert Einstein hospital in his hometown Sao Paolo.
  • Several important figures including celebrities, players, and world leaders paid tribute to them. Some of them include Lionel Messi, Neymar, Christiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe, Brazil President Jail Bolsonaro, etc.
  • NASA paid a tribute to Pelé with a spiral galaxy image, taken by the Galaxy Evolution Explorer satellite, that has the colors of Brazil.

Final Thought!

Although the soccer legend Pelé has left for his heavenly abode, he will continue to remain an inspiration for soccer players all around the world. This beloved “King” of football was the most loved sports figure of the 20th century but his influence will spread to present and future centuries to come. A sportsmanlike Pelé is hard to find but we can hope that the strategies and tactics he employed will be imbibed by the modern football generation and Pelé may rise again in some other player. Pelé exists in our minds and hearts and the memory of his uniqueness can never be effaced or replaced by any other legend that soccer may produce.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who is FIFA’s greatest player of all time?

Arantes do Nascimento, popularly known as Pelé was FIFA‘s greatest player of all time.

Why was Pelé called Pelé?

Pelé’s original full birth name was Arantes do Nascimento. He mispronounced the name of his favorite goalkeeper of Vasco Da Gama sports club, Bile. As a result, he was often teased with the name Pele which meant “miracle” in Hebrew. Other than that, the name Pele has no meaning.

How many goals has Pelé scored in his whole career?

Pelé had scored 1,279 goals in 1,363 matches (including friendlies).

How many World Cups did Pelé win?

Pelé won three World Cups in the year 1958, 1962, and 1970.

When did Pelé Retire?

Pelé retired on 1 October 1977 at the age of 36.

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