Edson Arantes do Nascimento, popularly known as Pelé was a Brazilian footballer born on 23rd October 1940 in Três Corações, Brazil. Pelé usually played as a forward or as an attacking midfielder on the football pitch and preferred his right foot.
Pelé is widely considered to be the best football player of his time and of all times. He has won three FIFA World Cups and was named the FIFA co-Player of the Century in 1999.
As a child, Pelé joined a youth squad which was coached by Waldemar de Brito. De Brito was a former member of the Brazilian national soccer team. He convinced Pelé’s family to let him leave their house and trial for the Santos Football Club when he was only 15.
Pelé impressed during the trials and signed for Santos. He started practicing with the regular footballers of the club. He scored his first professional goal before he turned 16. He was selected to play for the Brazilian national football team as he led the goal scoring charts in the league.
Pelé made his international debut in 1957 at the age of 16 against Argentina in a 1-2 defeat at the Maracana. He scored a goal on his debut to become the youngest to score for Brazil at 16 years and 9 months.
Rise to Glory
The footballing world first witnessed the talent of Pelé in the 1958 FIFA World Cup. He scored a hattrick against France in the semi-final and then netted a couple of goals in the final against host nation, Sweden in a 5-2 win.
Brazil retained the World Cup four years later but injury caused Pelé to sit out after the first couple of matches.
The 1966 FIFA World Cup turned out to be a disappointing one for both Pelé and Brazil as the star player faced a number of brutal challenges and was injured as a result. Brazil was knocked out in the group stage.
Pelé returned to have one last shot at the World Cup in 1970 and teamed up with young stars like Jairzinho and Rivelino to claim Brazil’s third World Cup. Pelé ended his World Cup career scoring 12 goals in 14 games.
Pelé’s stardom grew throughout the 1960s. Legend says the two factions of the Nigerian Civil War decided upon a 48-hour ceasefire so that they could watch Pelé during an exhibition match in Lagos.
The 1962 FIFA World Cup remains a disappointing one for Pelé on a personal note. A thigh injury caused him to miss the tournament after the first two games and watch from the sidelines as his team retained the World Cup crown.
After signing for Santos, Pelé became the leading goal scorer in the Brazilian club’s history. He also led them to the 1962 and 1963 Copa Libertadores titles.
The superstar received a number of offers from European clubs but Brazilian President Jânio Quadros declared him a national treasure making it difficult for him to ply his trade in another country.
In 1975, Pelé agreed to a $7 million contract with the New York Cosmos for a year and made the NASL a big attraction.
Pele's Record in Numbers
At the age of 17, Pelé became the youngest footballer to win the FIFA World Cup.
Pelé has two Guinness Book of World Records in his name. He is the only footballer to have won the FIFA World Cup on three occasions. The second record was for scoring the most number of career goals in football. He scored 1283 career goals in 1363 games.
Pelé has scored a record 92 hat tricks in his career.
Pelé first announced his retirement from football in 1974 but then returned to play for New York Cosmos in 1975. He played his final exhibition game in a game between New York and Santos in October 1977, a game in which he played for both sides.
After retirement, Pelé was appointed as Minister of Sport in Brazil in 1995 and served till 1998.
He is a global ambassador for soccer and other humanitarian causes.