Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé, turns 81 today.
Magician, legend, global icon or Brazilian hero these are just some words with which we describe the great man. ‘The Beautiful Game’ of football that we know off was once graced by a diminutive wonder called Pele, whose talent and skill still remains unmatched.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento o Pelé, celebrates his 76th birthday today. Although his birth certificate states his first name as Edison and date of birth as October 21, 1940, Pele publicly claims that he was born on October 23.
A national hero in Brazil, Pele scored a record 1281 goals in 1363 games including 77 in 91 matches for his country. He won the FIFA World Cup title three times (1958, 1962 and 1970) and is still the only player in the world to do so.
Pele’s Brazilian teammate Clodoaldo once stated, “In some countries they wanted to touch him, in some they wanted to kiss him. In others they even kissed the ground he walked on. I thought it was beautiful, just beautiful.”
‘The Black Pearl’ turns a year older today and we have decided to make this day even more special by reliving five of his most memorable moments on and off the football field.
When Pele Stopped A War:
Yes, you heard that right. Pele did stop a war! Pele, who was declared a “non-exportable national treasure” by Brazil, played an exhibition match in the Nigerian city of Lagos in 1967. However, the African country was going through a civil war at that time. But the warring factions of the Nigerian civil war agreed to a 48-hour ceasefire so that fans could watch Pele play.
Former Brazil player Waldemar de Brito took a 15-year-old Pele to Santos in 1956 and told the club’s directors that the teenager would be “the greatest footballer in the world”. Pele didn’t waste time to impress Santos and scored in his first game against Corinthians Santo Andre, leading his team to a 7-1 victory on September 7, 1956.
Winning Brazil’s First World Cup:
“When we arrived in Sweden, no one knew what Brazil was. They know about Argentina… Uruguay. It was a surprise for us. I thought the whole world knew about Brazil, but in Sweden, nothing.”
“Then when we won the World Cup, everybody knew about Brazil. I think this was the most important thing I gave to my country, because we were well known after that World Cup,” Pele was quoted as saying by CNN.
At 17 years and seven months, Pele was the youngest player to feature in a World Cup match until Northern Ireland’s Norman Whiteside broke the record in 1982. Pele scored six goals in four matches, including two against Sweden in the final, which Brazil won 5-2.
Winning The 1970 World Cup:
Pele, who was nearing his 30th birthday, thought of retiring before the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. However, he had a change of heart just before the tournament.
Pele scored four goals in the World Cup and was adjudged the player of the tournament. His assist to Carlos Albreto in the final against Italy is regarded as one of the greatest World Cup goals.
“I told myself before the game, he’s made of skin and bones just like everyone else. But I was wrong,” Italian defender Tarcisio Burgnich, who marked him in the match, said of Pele.
Signing For New York Cosmos:
After retiring from football in 1974, Pele continued to pursue some of his business interests besides making special appearances for Santos. However, Pele was in need of money when one of business flopped and making a professional comeback was the only option left to him. A lot of European clubs were interested in signing the superstar but Pele decided to sign for New York Cosmos in 1975 and stayed there for three years till 1977. It is said that Pele made more money during his time with Cosmos than his entire Santos career.