‘The man who entranced Brazil and the world with his soccer artistry’, Pelé, is considered the greatest footballer player that ever lived. He left such a trail of brilliance that many footballers are still chasing his title with arguments erupting (both online and “offside”) every now and then questioning the keeping of his crown.
Here are ten things to know about the King of football.
1. He recently released a new book that has been priced at $1,700 (£1,064) and weighs 15 kilogrammes. Entitled ‘1283’, which references the number of goals that the ace footballer scored in the course of his illustrious career, it is a historical and graphical account of his career that includes over 500 photos, each autographed by the master himself.
The publishers will release 1283 copies of the book for sale. Pelé stated that the images in the book were emotional for him and they reminded him of the people who had been there for him during his illustrious career.
2. He was born Edson Arantes do Nascimento on 21 October 1940. However, Pelé himself claims that he was born on 23 October. He was named after the American inventor Thomas Edison. His parents decided to remove the ‘i’ and call him ‘Edson’, but there was a mistake on the birth certificate, leading many documents to show his name as ‘Edison’, not ‘Edson’, as he is actually called.
3. In 1999, he was voted: “Football Player of the Century” by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS); and “Athlete of the Century” by the International Olympic Committee and Reuters News Agency.
4. In total, Pelé scored 1283 goals in 1363 games. When he scored his 1,000th goal he dedicated it to the poor children of Brazil.
5. Pelé, himself, is unsure of how he got his name, though he recalled despising it when his friends first referred to him that way. There are two stories. He was originally nicknamed Dico by his family and it was not until his school days, he became known as Pele. It is claimed he was given it because of his pronunciation of the name of his favorite player, local Vasco da Gama goalkeeper Bilé, which he misspoke. In his autobiography, Pelé stated he had no idea what the name means, nor did his old friends. Apart from the assertion that the name is derived from that of Bilé, and that it is Hebrew for “miracle,” the word has no known meaning in Portuguese. The second story of the origin of his name, related by Jimmy Magee, and the one in which Pelé himself considers feasible, is that the name came from an Irish priest working in the slums where Pelé grew up. On seeing Pelé’s remarkable talent for football as a young boy, the priest exclaimed “…Ag imirt peile” which in the Irish language means ‘playing football’. On hearing this, Pelé’s friends started calling him by the same name as they thought the priest was calling him. During his career, he became known as “The Black Pearl” (Pérola Negra), “The King of Football” (O Rei do Futebol), “The King Pelé” (O Rei Pelé) or simply “The King” (O Rei).
6. He is the all-time leading goal scorer of the Brazil national football team and is the only footballer to be a part of three World Cup-winning squads, winning three World Cup medals.
7. He was trained since birth to become great by his father, mentor and former footballer (who was the top scorer in every season he played for, for every team) Dondinho.
8. He scored the first professional goal of his career before he turned 16. Pelé began playing for Santos at 15 and his national team at 16, and won his first World Cup at 17. The world was officially introduced to Pelé in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. Displaying remarkable speed, athleticism and field vision, the 17-year-old erupted to score three goals in a 5-2 semifinal win over France, then netted two more in the finals, a 5-2 win over the host country. In 1961 President Jânio Quadros had Pelé declared a national treasure, making it legally difficult for him to play in another country, thus enabling Santos to keep Pelé for almost two decades until 1974.
9. In the late 1960s, the two factions in the Nigerian Civil War reportedly agreed to a 48-hour ceasefire so they could watch Pelé play in an exhibition game in Lagos.
10. In 1978, Pelé was awarded the International Peace Award for his work with UNICEF. He has also served as Brazil’s Extraordinary Minister for Sport and a United Nations ambassador for ecology and the environment.