Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known as Pelé was born on October 23rd, 1940, He was born in Três Corações, Minas Gerais, Brazil, the son of Fluminense footballer Dondinho who was born João Ramos do Nascimento and Celeste Arantes. 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 called. He was the elder of two siblings; and he was originally nicknamed Dico by his family. He received the nickname “Pelé” during his school days, when it is claimed he was given it because of his pronunciation of the name of his favorite player, local Vasco Da Gama goalkeeper Bilé, but the more he complained about the nickname, the more it stuck.
Struck by poverty, he took up various odd jobs as a child to earn extra money. He received his early lessons in soccer from his father and played for various amateur teams in his youth. Blessed with the talent for the game and a style of his own, he found himself a place at the Bauru Athletic Club juniors, which was coached by Waldemar de Brito. He led the team to three consecutive victories from 1954 to 1956. Additionally, he won several local indoor football competitions and championships.
In 1956, de Brito took Pelé to Santos, an industrial and port city located near São Paulo, to try out for professional club Santos FC, telling the directors at Santos that the 15-year-old would be “the greatest football player in the world.” Pelé impressed Santos coach Lula during his trial at the Estádio Vila Belmiro, and he signed a professional contract with the club in June 1956. Pelé was highly promoted in the local media as a future superstar. He made his senior team debut on 7 September 1956 at the age of 15 against Corinthians Santo Andre and had an impressive performance in a 7–1 victory, scoring the first of his record 1281 goals in football during the match.
Beginning 1957, he became a regular in the team and no sooner, the top scorer of the league. It was his remarkable performance that earned him a place in the national team of Brazil. He played his first international game in July 1957 against Argentina. Though Brazil lost the match by 2-1, he scored his first international goal, thus becoming the youngest player ever to score in international football. The year 1958 was a year of accomplishments. Not only did he help Santos register a win at the Campeonato Paulista a top-flight professional football league in Brazil with 58 goals, a feat unmatched till date, he was also part of the Brazilian team which won the World Cup. Pele made significant contributions in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals of the 1958 World Cup and scored a total of six goals in four matches. He broke a number of records in the 1958 World Cup.
His dream run of success was shortly halted as Santos were unable to retain their Paulista title in 1959, but continued in full force in 1960 as he displayed extraordinary performance on the field thereby helping Santos regain the title. The club won the Taça Brasil with him as the top scorer. It was these wins that helped Santos play Copa Libertadores, South America’s premier club football tournament.
The year 1962 was the best club year of his career as he not only guided Santos in the Copa Libertadores competition to record a thrilling victory, but helped the club register win at the Campeonato Brasiliero, Taça Brasil and 1962 Intercontinental Cup. As for the 1962 World Cup, despite much hype and hoopla, the injury took the better of him as he remained out for most of the tournament. Year 1963 replicated the success of the previous year as Santos became the successful defending champions of the Copa Libertadores. Though the club was unable to regain the Paulista trophy, it recorded a victory at the Rio-São Paulo tournament, the Intercontinental Cup and the Taça Brasil.
Post the wins recorded in 1964 and 1965, the club’s steep climb upwards rebounded and so did his contribution to the club. Though the club won Paulista trophy for three consecutive years, Pele was not a major contributor for the fare. He scored his 1000th goal against Vasco Da Gama from a penalty kick at the Maracana Stadium in 1969. Pele’s last international match was against Yugoslavia on July 18, 1971 in Rio de Janeiro. As for his club years, the 1974 season was his 19th and last season that he played for Santos before retiring.
After the 1974 season (his 19th with Santos), Pelé retired from Brazilian club football, although he continued to occasionally play for Santos in official competitive matches. Two years later, he came out of semi-retirement to sign with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League (NASL) for the 1975 season. Though well past his prime at this point, Pelé is credited with significantly increasing public awareness and interest of the sport in the United States. Hoping to fuel the same kind of awareness in the Dominican Republic, he and the Cosmos team played in an exhibition match against Haitian team, Violette AC, in the Santo Domingo Olympic Stadium on 3 June 1976, where over 25,000 fans watched him score a winning goal in the last seconds of the match, leading the Cosmos to a 2–1 victory. He led the Cosmos to the 1977 NASL championship, in his third and final season with the club.
On 1 October 1977, Pelé closed out his career in an exhibition match between the Cosmos and Santos. Santos arrived in New York and New Jersey after previously defeating the Seattle Sounders, 2–0. The match was played in front of a sold out crowd at Giants Stadium and was televised in the United States on ABC’s Wide World of Sports as well as throughout the world. Pelé’s father and wife both attended the match, as well as Muhammad Ali and Bobby Moore. Pelé played the first half for the Cosmos and the second half for Santos. Pelé scored his final goal from a direct free kick, and Cosmos won 2–1.
Pele took part in 4 consecutive world cup started from 1958 to 1970; in his first world cup that was the 1958 FIFA World Cup, the sixth staging of the World Cup, was hosted by Sweden from 8 to 29 June. The tournament was won by Brazil, who beat Sweden 5–2 in the final for their first title. On 29 June 1958 Pelé became the youngest player to play in a World Cup final match at 17 years and 249 days, that gave Brazil their first world cup champion title He scored two goals in that final as Brazil beat Sweden 5–2 in the capital of Stockholm. His first goal where he flicked the ball over a defender before volleying into the corner of the net, was selected as one of the best goals in the history of the World Cup. Following Pelé’s second goal, Swedish player Sigvard Parling would later comment; “When Pelé scored the fifth goal in that Final, I have to be honest and say I felt like applauding”. When the match ended, Pelé passed out on the field, and had to be attended by the medical staff. He then recovered, and was compelled by the victory to weep as he was being congratulated by his teammates. He finished the tournament with six goals in four matches played, tied for second place, behind record-breaker, Just Fontaine, and was named best young player of the tournament.
It was in the 1958 World Cup that Pelé began wearing a jersey with number 10. Recently it has become known that the event was the result of disorganization: the leaders did not send the shirt numbers of players and it was up to FIFA to choose the number 10 shirt to Pele who was a substitute on the occasion. The press proclaimed Pelé the greatest revelation of the 1958 World Cup, and he was also retroactively given the Silver Ball as the second best player of the tournament, behind Didi. The 1962 FIFA World Cup was the 7th FIFA World Cup. It was held from May 30 to June 17, 1962 in Chile; where Brazil national football team won again given Pele his second world cup championship medal at 21 years old.
The 1966 FIFA World Cup, the eighth staging of the World Cup, was held in England from 11 to 30 July. Pelé scored the first goal from a free kick against Bulgaria, becoming the first player to score in three successive FIFA World Cups. The 1966 World Cup brought much pain for Pele as he was injured due to the persistent fouling by the Bulgarians. The result was Brazil’s exit from the World Cup after the first round.
The 1970 FIFA World Cup was the ninth FIFA World Cup, the quadrennial international football championship for men’s national teams; was held from 31 May to 21 June in Mexico, it was the first World Cup tournament staged in North America, and the first held outside Europe and South America. The Brazilian national football team that missed to win the 1966 world cup came out stronger and won the title. Pelé was called to the national team in early 1969, he refused at first, but then accepted and played in six World Cup qualifying matches, scoring six goals. The 1970 World Cup in Mexico was the last World Cup in which Pele participated. Brazil’s squad for the tournament featured major changes in relation to the 1966 squad. Players like Garrincha, Nilton Santos, Valdir Pereira, Djalma Santos and Gilmar had already retired, but the team, with Pelé, Rivelino, Jairzinho, Gérson, Carlos Alberto Torres, Tostão and Clodoaldo, is often considered to be the greatest football team in history. The front five of Jairzinho, Pelé, Gerson, Tostão and Rivelino together created an attacking momentum, with Pelé having a central role in Brazil’s way to the final. He played in all the qualifying matches and contributed in 14 of the 19 goals that Brazil struck in the tournament. Brazil won the World Cup and Pele was named ‘Player of the Tournament’ for his impressive performance and extensive contribution.
Here are some of Pele personal life details: On 21 February 1966, Pelé married Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi; they have two daughters, Kelly Cristina (born 13 January 1967), who married Dr. Arthur DeLuca, and Jennifer (b. 1978), as well as a son, Edson (“Edinho”, b. 27 August 1970). The couple divorced in 1982. In 1977, Brazilian media reported that Pelé had his right kidney removed. From 1981 to 1986, Pelé was romantically linked with the model Xuxa, and was seen as influential in launching her career; she was 17 when they started to date. In April 1994 Pelé married psychologist and gospel singer Assíria Lemos Seixas, who gave birth on 28 September 1996 to twins Joshua and Celeste through fertility treatments. The couple divorced in 2008. Pelé had at least two more children from former affairs. Sandra Machado, his daughter with a housemaid Anizia Machado in 1964, for years fought to be acknowledged by Pelé, who refused to submit to DNA tests. Although she was recognized by courts as his daughter based on DNA evidence in 1993, Pelé never acknowledged his eldest daughter even after her death in 2006, nor her two children, Octavio and Gabriel. Pelé had had another daughter, Flávia Kurtz, in an extramarital affair in 1968 with journalist Lenita Kurtz. Flávia was recognized by him as his daughter.
At the age of 73, Pelé announced his intention to marry 41-year-old Marcia Aoki, a Japanese-Brazilian importer of medical equipment from Penápolis, São Paulo, whom he has been dating since 2010. They first met in the mid-1980s in New York, before meeting again in 2008. Pelé is now married to Marcia Aoki, who stood by him during his illness in 2014. Post the hugely successful soccer career, he was appointed as a UN ambassador for ecology and the environment in 1992. In 1995, he was appointed as UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.
For his impressive line-up of victories and the extraordinary role in catapulting the status of the sport to newer heights, he received numerous prestigious honors and decorations including Brazil’s Gold Medal, Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire and Lifetime Achievement Award from BBC.
The International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) voted him as the Football Player of the Century in 1999. Additionally, he was elected as the ‘Athlete of the Century’ by the International Olympic Committee and Reuters News Agency. In 2010, he was appointed as the Honorary President of New York Cosmos. In 2012, he was awarded honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh for ‘significant contribution to humanitarian and environmental causes, as well as his sporting achievements.
Pele is a legendary sporting figure and an iconic soccer player who during his active years ruled the game to the point of being called the ‘King of Football’. Till date, he is widely regarded by football fans, critics, experts and players (current and retired) as the best player of all time. With his impeccable style, electrifying play and impressive performance, he scored a total of 1281 goals in 1363 games. It was his deep embedded penchant for the game and a knack for scoring spectacular goals that made him a star around the world. He was praised for his exceptional heading ability, powerful shot and unbowed goal scoring. As a Brazilian national team footballer and key player for the Santos club, he played a major role in every game he played. While in the field, he gave his hundred percent to every match and played like an unbeaten pro since his very first professional game. Over his career that spanned for a little over two decades, he showcased some invincible performances and catapulted the popularity of the game astronomically. Other than his spectacular showmanship on the field, Pele is regarded as the ultimate humanitarian as well, for he has raised his voice to enhance the living standard and social conditions of the poor, a number of times. During his active years, he created numerous records, some of which till date remain undefeated and unaltered.