Soccer - Pelé

Pelé is a legendary sports figure and an iconic soccer player who ruled the game to the point of being called the ‘King of Football’. To date, he is widely regarded by soccer fans, critics, experts and players as the best player of all time. With his unique style, electrifying play and impressive performance, he brought many new fans to the sport.

Pelé was born Edson Arantes do Nascimento on October 23, 1940 in Três Corações, Brazil. Named after American inventor Thomas Edison he acquired the nickname "Pelé" during his school days. Originally nicknamed Dico by his family, his friends started calling him Pelé after his favorite soccer player Vasco da Gama ‘Bile’, whom he mispronounced as ‘Pelé’.

Pelé first learned soccer from his father, who struggled to earn a living as a soccer player himself. Growing up in poverty in the city of Bauru, Pelé practiced his skills by kicking a rolled-up sock stuffed with rags around the streets. With a talent for the game and a style of his own, he joined a youth soccer club as a teenager. The club was coached by Waldemar de Brito, a former member of the Brazilian national soccer team. Pelé led the team to three consecutive victories from 1954 to 1956. Additionally, he won several local indoor soccer competitions and championships. Coach de Brito convinced Pelé’s parents to allow him to leave home to try out for the Santos professional soccer club (Santos FC) when he was just 15. Pele signed a contract in June 1956 and played his first professional game in September.

Pelé scored the first professional goal of his career before he turned 16, led the league in goals in his first full season and was recruited to play for the Brazilian national team. The world was introduced to Pelé at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. Displaying remarkable speed, athleticism and field vision, the 17-year-old scored 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.

Pelé continued to play for Santos FC until his retirement in 1974. During that time he participated in many international competitions including the FIFA World Cup (1962, 1966, 1970). While injuries sidelined him for much of the ‘62 and ‘66 competitions, in 1970 contributed in 14 of the 19 goals that Brazil scored in the tournament. Brazil won the World Cup that year, and Pelé was named ‘Player of the Tournament’ for his impressive performance.

Pelé came out of retirement in 1976 to play for the New York Cosmos. He played his final game in an exhibition between New York and Santos on October 1, 1977, competing for both sides (switching sides at the half). He retired with a total of 1,281 goals in 1,363 games.