April 13, 2024

Born on 23 October 1940 in Três Corações, Minas Gerais Edson Arantes do Nascimento has left a vacuum in the world of football. Pele as he was affectionately called blazed the trail of football as a teenager for Brazilian giants Santo at age 15 and was drafted into the Brazilian national team at age 16.

Taught to play by his father, he could not afford a proper football and usually played with either a sock stuffed with newspaper and tied with string or a grapefruit. His amateur career saw him play for clubs such as Sete de SetembroCanto do RioSão Paulinho, and Amériquinha. Pele was brought to Santos, an industrial and port city located near São Paulo, by Waldemar de Brito in 1956 to try out for a professional career with club Santos FC, de Brito told the directors at Santos that the 15-year-old would be “the greatest football player in the world” and truly he is the greatest player the world has seen. Santos coach Luís Alonso Pérez, also known as Lula was impressed during his trial at the Estádio Vila Belmiro, and he signed a professional contract with the club in June 1956. He made his senior team debut on 7 September 1956 at the age of 15 against Corinthians de Santo André and was highly impressive in the 7–1 victory, scoring the first goal in his opulent career during the match.

Ten months after signing professionally, the teenager was called up to the Brazil national team. After the 1958 and the 1962 World Cup, wealthy European clubs, such as Real Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan, Valencia FC and Manchester United, tried to sign him in vain.  In 1961 the government of Brazil under President Jânio Quadros declared Pelé an “official national treasure” to prevent him from being transferred out of the country.

Pele featured in four world cups 1958, 1962, 1966 and 1970 winning three, becoming the only player to have won the world cup on three occasions. 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. A year 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.

In 1999, he was named Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee and was included in the Time list of the 100 most important people of the 20th century. In 2000, Pelé was voted World Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) and was one of the two joint winners of the FIFA Player of the Century. His 1,279 goals in 1,363 games, which includes friendlies, is recognized in the Guinness World Record. In January 2014, Pelé was awarded the first ever FIFA Ballon d’Or Prix d’Honneur as an acknowledgment from the world governing body of the sport for his contribution to world football.

According to the RSSSF, Pelé was one of the most successful goal-scorers in the world, scoring 538 league goals, a total of 775 in 840 official games and a tally of 1,301 goals in 1,390 appearances during his professional senior career, which included friendlies and tour games. He is ranked among the leading scorers in football history in both official and total matches. After his retirement in 1977 he played eight exhibition games and scored three goals. The world has indeed lost a great football icon. Loved by all and considered a national treasure. Will the world ever see such a prolific footballer ever again. Time will tell, but for Edson Arantes do Nascimento this is a life well lived. Fare thee well the King of football.

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