The late Brazilian football legend and global soccer icon, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, popularly known as Pele, was buried on Tuesday in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In his death, the world has lost one of the most successful and popular sports figures of the 20th Century. He was named after the American inventor, Thomas Edison. His parents removed the “i” and called him Edson.
Before he rose to stardom, Pele played with several amateur teams, such as Sete de Setembro, Canto de Rio, Sao Paulinho and Ameriquinha. He led Bauru Atletico Clube juniors to two Sao Paulo State youth championships. Pele also played for an indoor football team called Radium in his mid-teens. In 1956, Pele came to Sao Paulo and joined the Santos Football Club and signed a professional contract with the club in June 1956.
Pele was then promoted in the local media as a future superstar. He made his senior team debut in September 7, 1956 at the age of 15 against Corinthians de Santos Andre. He had an impressive performance and scored the first goal in a 7-1 victory during the match. At 16 in 1957, Pele became the top scorer in the league.
He was later called up to the Brazilian national team. After the victory of Brazil in the 1958 and 1962 World Cup and Pele’s sterling performance, some wealthy European clubs, such as Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester United, tried to sign him, but did not succeed. In 1961, the government of President Janio Quadros declared Pele an “official national treasure” to prevent him from being transferred out of the country.
Unarguably, Pele raised the status of football and even his country, Brazil. He glamorised the round leather game and made football beautiful and entertaining. He was credited with connecting the phrase, “The Beautiful Game” with football. He played football with passion, style and dexterity. Pele was quoted as saying, “I was born to play football, just like Beethoven was born to write music and Michelangelo was born to paint.” No doubt, Pele fulfilled this mission in his great football career. He was at one time the highest paid athlete in the world.
In his international career, Pele won three FIFA World Cups in 1958, 1962 and 1970. He was the joint-top goal scorer for Brazil with 77 goals in 92 games. At club level, he was Santos’ all time top scorer with 643 goals in 659 games. He really distinguished himself as a great footballer and was even nicknamed O Rei (The King) following the 1958 global football tournament. Pele’s “electrifying play and penchant for spectacular goals” made him a star around the world, and his team toured internationally on account of his popularity.
Following his retirement in 1977, he became a global ambassador for football. Besides, he made many acting and commercial ventures. He was named the honorary president of the New York Cosmos in 2010.
In 1999, Pele was named Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee and was included in the Time list of the 100 most important people in the 20th Century. He was also voted World Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS). He was one of the two joint winners of FIFA Player of the Century, along with Diego Maradona.
Aged 82, the renowned footballer, who was born on October 23, 1940, in Tres Coracoes, State of Minas Gerais, Brazil, died of cancer on December 29, 2022, at Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Pele was regarded as one of the greatest players of all time and labelled the greatest by FIFA.
He began his football career with the Santos at age 15 as well as the Brazil national team at 16. In his football career that spanned over two decades, Pele scored 1,279 goals in 1,363 games, which includes friendlies. This feat has been recognised as a Guinness World Record. Pele had demonstrated with football that anybody can achieve greatness and make history in any field of human endeavour.
In his decades of football career, he inspired many players and used soccer to promote peace and friendship. Pele was a football genius, who made the game more entertaining and exciting. He distinguished himself in football more than any other player in the history of the game. His legacy will definitely live forever.
Adieu Pele, the King of Soccer.