Pele is a former Brazilian professional footballer known as the greatest player of all time. A title acknowledged by FIFA. Pele was extremely successful thanks to his excellent skills as a forward on the football field.
Among all the popular sports figures in the 20th century, Pele is the most successful and popular. He was also named the Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee. Pele was also included in Time’s list of 100 most important people in the 20th century. These titles prove that Pele was an extraordinary football player who had a huge impact on the sport.
In 2000, Pele was voted to be the World Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics. His 1279 goals also earned him the title of FIFA Player of the Century award and a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. Pele also has the most number of assists in history, at a staggering 370 recorded assists.
Pele’s specialty was anticipating his opponent’s movements, which gave him an advantage, and he could strike the ball in a way that favored him. He was a versatile player and could take on the playmaking role and his predominant striker positions. Furthermore, he was also skilled at dribbling, assisting goals, and passing.
All of his talents on the field made him a successful football star who is still looked up to. Many of the current football talents often name Pele as their football role model, which shows how much influence he has.
Life Before Professional Football
Pele was born as Edson Arantes do Nascimento in Tres Caracóes, Minas Gerais, Brazil, on 23 October 1940. His father was Dondinho, a Fluminense football player, and his mother was Celeste Arantes. Pele was the oldest of the couple, and he had one younger sibling.
He was named Edson after the famous American inventor Thomas Edison, but his parents decided to remove the i and just call him Edson. However, there was a mistake on the birth certificate, due to which many documents call him Edison and not Edson, which was his original name.
Pele was nicknamed Dico by his family, and during his school days, he was called Pele. The nickname arose from his pronunciation of his favorite local player Vasco da Gama, Bilé. He once misspoke, and after that, his peers started to call him Pele. He complained, but that encouraged his peers to keep calling him that, and the name stuck.
In his autobiography, Pele confessed that he didn’t know what Pele meant. The name it was derived from, Bilé meant miracle in Hebrew, but as far as he knows, Pele has no known meaning in Portuguese.
Pele had a rough childhood as his family was poor and lived in Bauru in São Paulo. To help out with the finances, Pele used to work as a servant in a tea shop, which earned him some cash. In his spare time, he was taught to play football by his father.
Due to their financial condition, he could not afford to buy a proper football, and he and his father had to make do with a sock stuffed with newspaper. To secure this makeshift football, he tied it with a string. They also played with grapefruits sometimes.
In his youth, Pele played with several anetaur teams such as Canto do Rio, Sete de Setembro, São Paulinho, and Amériquinha. Pelé was an excellent player, and he even led the Bauru Athletic Club juniors to the São Paulo state youth championships.
When he was a teenager, indoor football had become quite popular in Bauru, and he started playing it. When the first competition for futsal, or indoor football, was held in the region, Pele took part, and he and his team won first place.
Even though futsal presented difficulties for Pele, he credits the game for teaching him to think better on the spot. It also allowed him to gain a lot of confidence, which helped him greatly in football.
Journey Through Clubs
Pele’s big break came in 1956 when de Brito took him to try out for a professional club called Santos FC. This club was located in Santos near Sao Paulo. The coaches were extremely impressed by Pele’s performance and signed a professional contract with him in June 1956.
The media highly promoted Pele, and there was hype around his debut. His senior debut was at the age of 17, on 7 September 1956 against Corinthians Santo Andre. The team played extremely well and won the match 7-1. Pele also scored his first professional goal in this match.
In the 1957 season, Pele was on the first team at just 16 years of age, and he became the top scorer for the team. His talent was such that ten months after he was signed to a professional club, he became part of the Brazilian national team.
His performance in the 1958 and 1962 World Cup was so impressive that many wealthy European Premier League clubs, such as Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Juventus wanted to sign him. However, Pele had no intention of transferring to another club. He was a real asset to the country, and the president, Janio Quadros declared Pele to be the official national treasure and instructed people to prevent him from being transferred.
Pele won many titles with Santos. The first title was in 1958, the Campeonato Paulista, with his team. He finished this tournament with the most number of goals, which were 58. This record stands to this day.
A year later, in 1959, Pele helped his team earn their first title in the Torneio Rio-São Paulo. Here, the team won over Vasco da Gama 3-0.
Pele’s time in Santos was extremely fruitful, as he won many awards, and trained alongside many gifted players, from whom he learned a lot. These players include Zito, Pepe, Coutinho, etc. Furthermore, the number of goals he shot for Santos was the most goals anyone has scored for a single club. However, in December 2020, Lionel Messi broke this record.
New York Cosmos
After spending 19 seasons with Santos, in 1974, Pele decided to retire from his club. However, he continued to play for Santos occasionally in a few official competitive matches. Two years later, he came out of his semi-retirement and signed with a new club. This was the New York Cosmos of the NASL or North American Soccer League.
Everyone was extremely excited about this transfer as Pele was a superstar in football, and no one in America compared to him. They admitted that Pele was not in his prime, but due to his fame, he would help increase public interest and awareness of the game.
He debuted with Cosmos in a match against the Dallas Tornado held at Downing Stadium on 15 June 1975. Pele managed to score one goal, and the match ended in a 2-2 draw. Pele’s shift to Cosmos opened up opportunities for many other footballers to play in North America.
Many footballers followed Pele to Cosmos, such as Giorgio, Chinaglia, Carlos Alberto, Franz Beckenbaur, etc. Other players such as Bobby Moore, George Best, Gordon Banks, and Johan Cruyff also joined Pele’s new league.
On 1 October 1977, Pele ended his career as a professional footballer by playing an exhibition match between Santos, his previous club, and Cosmos, his current club. The match was played in a sold-out Giants Stadium, and was also televised on ABC’s Wide World of Sports in the US.
Many people close to Pele, such as his father, wife, Muhammad Ali, and Bobby Moore, attended the match. Before the game began, he addressed the audience with a heartfelt message. In the first half of the game, he played for Cosmos, and in the second half, he was a part of Santos. In the end, Cosmos won the game 2-1, and Pele scored a 30-yard free-kick for his current team.
Pele’s time on the field has earned him many awards and titles. In 2000, he was voted to be World Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics. He was also elected by the International Olympic Committee to be the Athlete of the Century.
Even after Pele retired, he received many awards to acknowledge all that he did for the world of football. In January 204, he received the first-ever FIFA Ballon d’Or Prix d’Honneur. This award was from the world governing body of the sport and acknowledged his contribution to the sport.
Pele has been one of the most successful goal-scorers in the world of football. RSSSF claims that Pele has successfully scored 538 league goals and 775 goals in just 840 official games. Overall, he has scored 1310 goals and has made 1390 appearances in his professional football career. These appearances include friendly matches, tour matches, and official matches.
Pele is often regarded as the best footballer player of all time. This title has been backed by both, FIFA and Times. They have named him the greatest and the 100 most important people of the 20th century, respectively.
When Pele came into the game, he was a young teenager, but he managed to make a name for himself. Even before his debut, people knew about him and were excited to see a new face on the field. Something else that Pele can be commended on is his loyalty. Despite being approved by some of the biggest clubs in the world, he remained loyal to his club and rejected all offers.
Averaging a goal per game, Pele was a consistent player that managed to show off his skills in every game. He is a role model for many football players all around the world, who aim to reach the skill he had all those years ago.