Friday, January 24, 2020

Pele: The God of Football

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Pele, the great Brazilian football player was born on December 23rd, 1940 at Tres Coracoes, Brazil. His real name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento. Football was in his genes. His father and mentor Dondinho was also a football player with the Fluminense Football club of Brazil. He played professional football for the Brazilian National team for nearly 20 years and helped the Brazilian national team win World Cup Championship not once, but three times in 1958,1962, and 1970. Pele has received many awards during his lifetime including World Player of the Century award, FIFA player of the century award and Athlete of the century award. So, let us know in detail about this world’s greatest football player Pele.

Early Life and Coaching

Pele: The god of football

He was named after American inventor Thomas Edison. He was the elder of two siblings and his parents gave him the nickname Dico. But, at school, he mispronounced the name of his favorite player Bile and hence received the nickname Pele, which has no direct meaning. Dondinho, Pele’s father struggled to earn a living and Pele grew up in poverty. But, he still possessed the stint of football that he had received in his genes and learned the crude basics of football while practicing with a rolled-up sock stuffed with rags. He earned extra money by working as a servant in tea shops.

His coach was his father and they could not afford a proper football. In his adolescent years, Pele joined an Indoor Football club called Radium. Indoor football was not that well-known in Brazil, but, after he started playing the sport, it became more known. He led Bauro Athletic club juniors to the Sao Paulo state youth championship twice. This athletic club was coached by Waldemar De Brito, the former Brazilian National team player. He recognized Pele’s potential and convinced his parents to send him out of station for training purposes.

Pele Club Career

In 1956, Brito helped Pele travel to Santos and he tried his luck at the Santos Football Club. At that time he was just 15 years old. The team selectors were very happy with his performance and they signed a contract with him in June 1956. His first senior team debut was in September 1956 against Corinthians Santo Andre, where he led his team to an impressive 7-1 victory. In 1957, he received the starting place in Santos FC’s first team and became the top goal scorer of the league during that season. 

In 1958 Pele led his Santos team to victory in Campeonato Paulista and became the top goal scorer of the tournament with 58 goals. This record is as it is even today. In 1959, the Santos team won the Torneo Rio Sao Paulo (traditional Brazilian Football Competition) with the help of Pele by a 3-0 victory over the Vasco de Gama football club. In 1960 they again won the Campeonato Paulista trophy, but, lost the Torneo Rio Sao Paulo tournament by just reaching the 8th position. The club won many tournaments under Pele in the 1960s. In 1961, the club won the Taca Brazil tournament by defeating Bahia football club by 5-1. 

The Taca Brazil win in 1961 helped the team gain entry in the Copa Libertadores, the most famous football tournament in South America. The team participated in the tournament in 1962 and won the tournament by defeating the defending champions Penarol Football club. In 1962 the Santos Football Club also won the Taca Brazil, the Campeonato Paulista, and 1962 Intercontinental Cup. As the defending champions, they got a direct entry into the Copa Libertadores 1963 championship. They won the tournament and became the only Brazilian club to lift the Copa trophy on Argentinian soil. This year they lost the Campeonato tournament but won the other tournaments Taca Brasil, Intercontinental Cup, and Rio São Paulo tournament. 

They did not win the 1964 and 1965 Copa Libertadores tournament. They also lost the Rio Sao Paulo tournament. In the following year, they lost the other tournaments mainly Taca Brasil. They, however, managed to win the Campeonato Paulista tournament in 1967,1968, and 1969. In 1969 Pele scored his 1000th goal. 

Pele has fondly remembered that his most memorable goal was on 2nd August 1959 against Club Atletico Juventus. After playing his 19th season with Santos Pele retired from the Brazilian Club football. 

In 1975 he came out of semi-retirement stage and joined the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League. He played a major role in promoting the game among the United States of American citizens and made his debut against Dallas Tornado in a drawn match (2-2) on 15th June 1975. He also played a friendly match for a Lebanese club just one week before the Lebanese Civil war against a team of Lebanese Premier League. 

On 1 October 1977, a match was played between  New York Cosmos and Santos. Pele announced his retirement from that match. 

Pele’s International Career

In 1957 Pele got a call from the Brazilian National team, at that time he was merely 16 years of age. His debut match was on 9th July 1957 against Argentina, where Brazil was defeated by 2-1. At that time he was just 16 years and 9 months old, marking him the youngest player in his country to score a goal in an international match.  In 1958 Pele was the youngest player to play in a world cup final match. He was just 17 years old when his team played the final against Sweden and defeated them by 5-2. He was named the best young player of the tournament as he scored six goals in four matches and tied for the second place. In 1959 he also played the South American Championship tournament and became the top goal scorer of the tournament with 8 goals.

In the 1962 World Cup, Pele played the first match against Chile and Brazil won by 2-0. But, he was injured in the second match, which kept him out for the rest of the tournament. The 1966 World Cup was not so good for Pele as it saw a series of serious fouls by Portuguese and Bulgarian players as a result of which. Brazil was out of the tournament in the first round and Pele vowed never to play in the World Cup. A decision that he would change after four years. 

The Brazilian team approached Pele to play for them in the 1970 World Cup. Pele refused at first but then agreed. He played some of his finest games and helped Brazil in scoring their 100th World Cup goal and win the tournament.

Pele in India

Mohun Bagan was going through a low face in the 1970s and their arch-rivals East Bengal was reigning. In spite, of bagging in some of the best players, Mohun Bagan’s team was not able to put up a very good show. The club’s general secretary Dhiren Dey then pulled out a coup. He knew that the New York Cosmos were on their Asian tour and invited them to play a friendly match against Mohun Bagan. The Cosmos asked for a heavy charge, which the club would not have been able to pay if Mr. Dey had not sent a letter to Pele’s secretary informing about India being the land of Gandhi and Mohun Bagan’s part in Indian Independence.

Pele and the Cosmos team agreed to play on the discounted rate and finally landed at the Kolkata airport on September 22nd, 1977. The football-crazy Bengal crowd had gone berserk by the presence of their beloved hero in the city. The match between the two teams ended in 2-2  draw. This match lifted the spirits of the Mohun Bagan players a lot and brought them back in-game. Due to his love for the country, he returned back after 38 long years.

After Retirement Years

Even after retirement from the game of football, he remained indirectly active in the field of football. In 1994, Pele was appointed as the UNESCO Goodwill ambassador. In 1995 he was appointed as the Extraordinary minister of sports by the Brazilian Prime Minister. In 1997, he received an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II at a ceremony in Buckingham Palace.

He has also written many autobiographies and has starred in several films, documentary films, TV shows, and has composed many musical pieces including the soundtrack for the movie Pele in 1977.

Pele Awards

Pele has won many awards during his career. The list of the individual awards he received and also with the teams he played with are as follows:

Team Awards:


  • Campeonato Brasileiro Série A (6): 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1968
  • Copa Libertadores (2): 1962, 1963
  • Intercontinental Cup (2): 1962, 1963
  • Intercontinental Supercup: 1968
  • Campeonato Paulista (10): 1958, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1973
  • Torneio Rio-São Paulo (4): 1959, 1963, 1964

New York Cosmos

  • North American Soccer League, Soccer Bowl: 1977
  • North American Soccer League, Atlantic Conference Championship: 1977


  • FIFA World Cup (3): 1958, 1962, 1970

Source: Wikipedia

Individual Awards:

  • Copa Libertadores Top Scorer: 1965
  • Intercontinental Cup Top Scorer (2): 1962, 1963
  • Campeonato Brasileiro Série A Top Scorer (3): 1961, 1963, 1964
  • Campeonato Paulista Top Scorer (11): 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1969, 1973
  • Torneio Rio-São Paulo Top Scorer: 1963
  • Bola de Prata: 1970
  • FIFA World Cup Best Young Player: 1958
  • FIFA World Cup Silver Ball: 1958
  • FIFA World Cup Golden Ball (Best Player): 1970
  • South American Championship Best Player: 1959
  • South American Championship Top Scorer: 1959
  • FIFA Ballon d’Or Prix d’Honneur: 2013
  • World Player of the Century, by the IFFHS: 1999
  • South American player of the century, by the IFFHS: 1999
  • Elected best Brazilian player of the century, by the IFFHS: 2006
  • France Football’s Ballon d’Or (7): 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1963, 1964, 1970 – Le nouveau palmarès (the new winners)
  • FIFA Player of the Century: 2000
  • FIFA Order of Merit: 1984
  • FIFA Centennial Award: 2004
  • FIFA 100 Greatest Living Footballers: 2004
  • Winner of France Football’s World Cup Top-100 1930–1990
  • BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year: 1970
  • BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award: 2005
  • Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award: 2000
  • Greatest football player to have ever played the game, by Golden Foot: 2012
  • Athlete of the Century, by Reuters News Agency: 1999
  • Athlete of the Century, elected by International Olympic Committee: 1999
  • South American Footballer of the Year: 1973
  • Football Player of the Century, elected by France Football’s Ballon d’Or Winners: 1999
  • Inducted into the American National Soccer Hall of Fame: 1992
  • World Team of the 20th Century: 1998
  • TIME: One of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th century: 1999
  • World Soccer Greatest XI of All Time: 2013
  • FWA Tribute Award: 2018
  • Included in the North American Soccer League (NASL) All-Star team (3): 1975, 1976, 1977
  • Number 10 retired by the New York Cosmos as a recognition to his contribution to the club: 1977
  • Elected Citizen of the World, by the United Nations: 1977
  • Elected Goodwill Ambassador, by UNESCO: 1993

Source: Wikipedia

Personal Records

Some of the personal records that are held by Pele are

  • Brazil national football team: All-time leading goalscorer: 77 goals (95 goals including unofficial friendlies)
  • All-time South American leading international goalscorer: 77 goals
  • Santos: All-time leading goalscorer: 643 goals in 656 competitive games
  • Intercontinental Cup: All-time leading goalscorer: 7 goals
  • World record number of hat-tricks: 92
  • Guinness World Records: Most career goals (football): 1283 goals in 1363 games
  • Guinness World Records: Most FIFA World Cup winners’ medals: three
  • Guinness World Records: Youngest winner of a FIFA World Cup: 17 years and 249 days in 1958 FIFA World Cup
  • Youngest goalscorer in a FIFA World Cup: 17 years and 239 days (Brazil v Wales 1958)
  • Youngest player to score a hat-trick in a FIFA World Cup: 17 years and 244 days (Brazil v France 1958)
  • Youngest player to play in a FIFA World Cup Final: 17 years and 249 days (Brazil v Sweden 1958)
  • Youngest goalscorer in a FIFA World Cup Final: 17 years and 249 days (Brazil v Sweden 1958)
  • Most assists provided in FIFA World Cup history: 10, (1958–1970)
  • Most assists provided in a single FIFA World Cup tournament: 7, (1970)
  • Most assists provided in a FIFA World Cup Final: 3, (1958 and 1970)
  • Top scorer in a FIFA World Cup Final (joint with Vavá, Geoff Hurst and Zinedine Zidane): 3 goals
  • Youngest goalscorer of the Paulista Championship: 1957 – Santos (he was 17 years old during the competition)
  • Youngest FIFA World Cup winner: in 1958 – Brazil (17 years)
  • Youngest two-time FIFA World Cup winner: in 1962 – Brazil (21 years)
  • Record Top scorer in a calendar year: in 1959 – 127 goals

Source: Wikipedia

Pele Career Statistics

As per the reports by FIFA, Pele has scored a total number of 1281 goals in 1363 matches. This is the combined number of games played by Pele in Domestic and International matches be it a friendly match or an official competition match.

CompetitionMatches PlayedGoals
International matches (Official and Friendlies)503479
Domestic matches (Official and Friendlies)863804

So, this is all I know and have shared with you regarding the god of football. If you know of something else please let us know in the comments section. 

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