Edson Arantes do Nascimento, more widely admired by the world as "Pelé", was born on October 23, 1940, in a small village in Brasil called Três Corações in the Brasilian state of Minas Gerais. He was baptized in the municipal church called Igreja da Sagrada Família de Jesus, Maria e José. His father, João Ramos do Nascimento, or Dondinho, as he was known in the soccer world, was also a professional player. He was well-known as one of the best-heading players in his time. He was a center forward for Fluminense until an injury kept him from playing professional division one soccer. His mother Celeste gave Pelé and the rest of his family attention to their needs and a lot of love. When he was a child, Pelé and his family moved to Baurú, in the interior of the Brasilian state of São Paulo, where he learned to master the art of futebol. One day he himself confessed that he "tinha três corações [had three hearts]", referring to the city where he was born, Três Corações, and to Baurú and Santos.
Pelé's first job was shining shoes. But he had always dreamed of playing soccer.
Pelé's soccer career started early. After playing in a few amateur teams like Baquinho and Sete Setembro, at the age of 11, while playing for an uncoached team called Ameriquinha, he was discovered by a former Brasilian World Cup player named Waldemar de Brito. De Brito recognized Pelé's skills and invited him to join the team he was organizing (Clube Atlético Baurú?). When Pelé was fifteen, in 1956, de Brito took him to the city of São Paulo to try out for the professional club called Santos Futebol Clube (SFC). That day, de Brito told the team directors that "This boy will be the greatest soccer player in the world."
Pelé's first show came on September 7, 1956, when he played in place of the center forward Del Vecchio. He came into the game to score the sixth of the seven goals in the 7-1 Santos victory. He scored his goal on the 36th minute, in a play between Raimundinho and Tite. The ball was given to Pelé in the box, and even though he was surrounded by defenders, he shot on goal and the ball went under goalkeeper Zaluar's body. Zaluar became famous as the first goalkeeper to take a goal from the great Pelé. From there, the trip to the summit was fast. In his first league game with Santos, he scored four goals. The next season, he was a regular starter and came out score leader of the São Paulo state league, with 32 goals.
Frustration for Corinthians
For 10 years, while Pelé played in Santos, Corinthians do Parque de São Jorge didn't win a single game against the team. The scores are as follows:
14 September 1958 - Santos 1-0, goal by Pelé
07 December 1958 - Santos 6-1, four goals by Pelé
30 April 1959 - Santos 3-2, one goal by Pelé
26 August 1959 - Santos 3-2, one goal by Pelé
27 December 1959 - Santos 4-1, two goals by Pelé
31 July 1960 - Tied score of 1-1, goal by Pelé
30 November 1960 - Santos 6-1, one goal by Pelé
03 December 1960 - Tied score of 1-1
23 September 1962 - Santos 5-2, one goal by Pelé
03 November 1962 - Santos 2-1, one goal by Pelé
03 March 1963 - Santos 2-0, two goals by Pelé
21 September 1963 - Santos 3-1, three goals by Pelé
14 December 1963 - Tied score of 2-2, Pelé did not play
18 March 1964 - Santos 3-0, one goal by Pelé
30 September 1964 - Tied score of 1-1, goal by Pelé
06 December 1964 - Santos 7-4, four goals by Pelé
15 April 1965 - Tied score of 4-4, four goals by Pelé
29 August 1965 - Santos 4-3, two goals by Pelé
14 November 1965 - Santos 4-2, one goal by Pelé
08 October 1966 - Santos 3-0
17 December 1966 - Tied score of 1-1, Pelé did not play
13 May 1967 - Tied score of 1-1, goal by Pelé
10 September 1967 - Santos 2-1, Pelé did not play
10 December 1967 - Santos 2-1, one goal by Pelé
The first game Corinthians won after this period was on March 6, 1968, by a score of 2-0.
Not long after Pelé's first season with SFC, Sylvio Pirilo, Brasil's national coach at the time, called Pelé to his squad. When Pelé was sixteen, on July 7th, 1957, he played for the first time for the Brasilian national team against Argentina's squad, and scored the one goal for Brasil in their 2-1 loss. And then the World Cup of 1958 came, and the world got to know the Black Pearl. His dazzling speed and rocketing shots made the jaws of many drop to the floor. All he had to do was walk onto the grass and the crowd would explode into wild batucadas and resonating chants. The nickname "The King" was given to Pelé by the French press in 1961 after he played a few matches with SFC in Europe.
Pelé in the World Cup
Pelé played in four World Cups: Sweden 1958, Chile 1962, England 1966, and Mexico 1970. He scored 12 goals in 14 World Cup matches.
The first game Pelé played in in this world cup was Brasil's third, versus the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). He was put in the game by request of the leaders of the team, who spoke to Vicente Feola about putting Pelé and Garrincha on the field after winning their first game versus Austria 3-0 and drawing against England 0-0. In that game against the USSR, Pelé did not score, but Brasil won 2-0 with two goals by Vavá. In the next game, Pelé scored the only goal. In the semi-finals against France, which Brasil won 5-2, Pelé had a hat trick, and Vavá and Didi each scored one goal. In the final against Sweden, Pelé scored two goals (see goal video), Vavá scored twice, and Zagalo scored once to prevail over the Swedes 5-2.
Right on in the first Brasilian game, versus Mexico, Pelé scored one goal, and Brasil won the game. Unfortunately, this cup, even though it was to be Pelé's cup, ended early for the great star. After ten minutes into the game against Czechoslovakia, he pulled a muscle and was out of the tournament. The cup then became Mané Garrincha's cup, while Amarildo substituted for Pelé.
Everything seemed to have gone wrong for Brasil in this cup. Somehow, 43 players were called to the squad, and when the team went to Europe, two of their best players, goalkeeper Valdir and forward Servílio, were cut out. In the first game, Brasil beat Bulgaria by a score of 2-0, with one goal by Pelé and the other by Garrincha. Then the team lost against Hungary 3-1, and in the next game, Pelé was violently forced out of the match because of injuries inflicted by the Portuguese twice before he was kept out of the game for its remainder.
This was the Cup that let Brasil take the Jules Rimet home to stay. In the first game, they triumphed over Czechoslovakia 4-1, with two goals by Jairzinho, one by Pelé, and one by Rivelino. Following in the Checks' footsteps, England was beaten 1-0, with a goal by Jairzinho. Another victory came versus Romania, which Brasil won 3-2 with two goals by Pelé and one by Jairzinho. Brasil then beat Peru by a score of 4-2. In the semifinal against Uruguay, Brasil came over the top with a score of 3-1. The final game was against Italy, which Brasil won 4-1 with goals from Pelé (see goal video), Gérson, Jairzinho, and Carlos Alberto. In this cup Pelé had the 3 best "almost goals" in history, and gave the English goalkeeper Banks fame for the best save in the history of the world cup when Banks stopped one of Pelé's headers.
Three Seasons with the New York Cosmos
"It all started in 1971 when I was with Santos FC in Kingston, Jamaica, and received a visit from Mr. Clive Toye, general manager of a new team in New York called Cosmos; Phill Woosnam, who later would become a member of the NASL; and Kurt Lamm, general secretary of the US Soccer Ferderation. They wanted to know if I wanted to play in the United States for the Cosmos when I retired from Santos. When professor Mazzei translated their intentions, I said, 'Professor, tell them they're crazy! I will never play for anyone else after Santos!' Three years later, after my last game for Santos, Clive Toye called me from New York and said that the Cosmos wanted to talk to me about a possible contract. And after six months of meetings all over the world, messages, telegrams, phone calls, I decided to accept the proposition from Warner Communications, owner of the New York Cosmos, to return to the professional life for three more seasons."
The Unforgettable Pelé
Pelé was a man who could move masses. In the late 1960's, when he and his team, Santos, went to Nigeria to play a few friendly matches, the ongoing civil war stopped for the duration of his visit. When he came to the United States to play for the New York Cosmos he brought thousands to the stadium all by himself. Pelé was and still is an idol to billions of people. His name is said throughout the world with a lot of respect in the air.
Many famous names have attributed famous quotes about Pelé:
"'How do you spell Pelé?' G-O-D."
The Sunday Times, London newspaper.
"If Pelé hadn't been born a man, he would have
been born a ball."
Armando Nogueira, Brasilian journalist.
"Scoring 1,000 goals like Pelé is not that
difficult, but scoring one goal like Pelé is."
Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Brasilian poet.
"After the fifth goal I wanted to applaud
Sigge Parling, Swedish defender that was marking Pelé throughout the final of the 1958 World Cup.
"I thought: he is made of flesh and bone like
me. I was wrong."
Tarciso Burnigch, Italian defender that was marking Pelé throughout the final of the 1970 World Cup.
"Wow, man, you're popular!"
Robert Redford after seeing Pelé give dozens of autographs in New York while he was not asked for one.
"Pelé will never die."
Edson Arantes do Nascimento - Pelé.
In 1993, Pelé was inducted to the United States Soccer Hall of Fame. After a trip to Lima, Peru, to play a game, an inscription was placed on the stadium wall: "Here played Pelé". Once he even stopped a war in Nigeria: A 48-hour armistice was signed with Biafra so that both sides could go watch Pelé play a round of exhibition matches. When he left the national team on July 18, 1971, 200,000 people grieved in the monumental Maracanã, and he gave his historic number 10 jersey to a ten-year-old boy.
Pelé is the only person to have won three world cups as a player (1958, 1962, and 1970), and scored 1,281 (or 1284) goals in 1,363 professional games, which is probably the all-time record in soccer. That's a lifetime goal average of 0.93 goals per game. In 1959 he established the Paulist (São Paulo) league goal-scoring record for one season - 126 goals. On November 21, 1964, he scored eight goals in one game against Botafogo of Rio de Janeiro. On November 19, 1969, he scored his famous 1,000th goal from a penalty kick on the 34th minute of the game against Vasco da Gama and dedicated it "...para as criancinhas pobres do Brasil...." (to the poor little children of Brasil) and to the elderly and suffering peoples of Brasil. Pelé also participated in what is known to be the "Golden Age" of the Libertadores Cup from 1960 to 1963, during which the great Uruguayan team Peñarol faced the legendary Santos for the final games. Peñarol won in 1960 and 61, while Santos took the championship the other two years.
Pelé defined the role of the playmaker/midfielder type. He led some of the greatest Brasilian players of all time - Vavá, Didi, Garrincha, and others. Many said Pelé would have been the best in any position he played. Pelé once insisted to the manager of Santos that he play goalkeeper. On January 19, 1964, he substituted Santos goalkeepr Gilmar, who had been ejected, in the semi-final game of the Brasil Cup. For five minutes, after scoring three goals, Pelé played with the number one jersey and made two spectacular saves that saved Santos the spot in the finals.
The Farewell from Santos
Pelé played his last 21 minutes for Santos Futebol Clube in a game on October 3, 1974, starting at 9:08 PM. Santos won the game 2-0 against Ponte Preta, with a goal by Cláudio Adão and an own goal by Geraldo. But the game had ended to the fans when
"Aos 21 minutos de jogo, quando Pelé, inesperadamente, pegou a bola com as mãos, ajoelhou-se no meio do gramado e ergueu os braços, a torcida que estava em Vila Belmiro não pôde negar-se a um momento de surpresa. Mas, foi apenas um momento. Logo, ela compreendeu que Pelé estava determinando o final de sua carreira de maior jogador de futebol de todos os tempos."
[At the 21st minute, when Pelé unexpectedly picked the ball up with both hands, kneeled in the middle of the field, and raised his arms, the crowd at Vila Belmiro had a minute of surprise. But, it was only a minute. Soon the crowd understood that Pelé was determining the end of his career as the best soccer player of all time.]
This was the end of Pelé's career with the striped Santos jersey. After that the great Pelé was brought to the United States by the New York Cosmos in an attempt to popularize the sport in the country. And one thing Pelé could do perfectly was popularize anything he wanted with his grandness, talent, and universal image.