Edson Arantes do Nascimento
, born October 23, 1940, nicknamed
is a former Brazilian player who won three World Cup medals and
broke many records, also known as O Rei do Futebol
(The King of
Football). He is widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time.
Often considered the complete midfield and attacking player, he was a prolific
and clinical finisher and exceptional at dribbling and passing. Famed for his
pace and strong shot, and exceptional heading ability for a relatively short
man, he scored 1,281 goals in all matches during his career. Since his full
retirement in 1977, he has served as an ambassador for the sport.
He was born in Minas Gerais, Brazil, the son of Fluminense Football Club
footballer Dondinho. He was named after American inventor Thomas Edison, and did
not receive the nickname "Pelé" until his school days. He originally disliked
the nickname, but the more he complained the more he was called by it. Later in
life, when reflecting that the world came to know the name, he stated his belief
that it was chosen for him by God.
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Growing up in poverty on the streets of Bauru, São Paulo, he could not afford
a football and usually played with either a sock stuffed with papers or a
grapefruit. He was given his first leather ball on his sixth birthday by his
father's teammate, Sosa. At the age of eleven, Pelé was scouted by Brazilian
legend Waldemar de Brito and was invited to join de Brito's amateur team, Clube
Atlético Bauru. In 1956, Pele's mentor took him to the city of São Paulo, to try
out for professional club Santos Futebol Clube. De Brito told the directors at
Santos that the 16-year-old would be "the greatest football player in the
world." Pelé was offered professional terms and scored four goals in his first
league game. When the new season started, Pelé was given a starting place in the
first team and, at the age of just sixteen, became the top scorer in the league.
Just ten months after signing professionally, the teenager was called up to the
Brazil national team.
Pelé began his football career at Santos Futebol Clube, an industrial and
port town in São Paulo State in eastern Brazil, at the age of 15. At 16 he
became the top scorer in the league and a regular in the Brazil national squad.
While at Santos, Pelé won 9 state championships, 6 championships, 2 Libertadores
Cups (South American Cup) and 2 Intercontinental Cups, aided by players such as
Pepe and Coutinho.
In the Football World Cup 1958, Pelé became the youngest ever World Cup
winner in Sweden at 17 (uncapped before the world cup), scoring two goals in the
final as Brazil beat Sweden 5–2 in Stockholm.
 He played in three more Brazil World Cup teams in 1962, 1966 and 1970,
two of which Brazil won (1962 and 1970) although his contributions were limited
in the 1962 and 1966 campaigns because of injuries inflicted by opposition
players, the 1970 tournament in Mexico was to be Pelé's last. The 1970 team,
featuring famous players like Rivelino, Jairzinho, Gérson, and Tostão, is often
considered to be the greatest national team ever. Brazil defeated Italy 4–1 in
the final, with Pelé scoring one and setting up Carlos Alberto for another.
During his international career, Brazil never lost while Pelé and Garrincha were
Pelé's technique and deft touch combined with his dribbling skills and
scoring ability have been universally praised. His most spectacular signature
move was probably the "bicycle kick". After his retirement from Brazilian
football on 2 October 1974, he joined the New York Cosmos of the North American
Soccer League. A reported $7,000,000 contract for three years made him the
highest paid football player of the North American Soccer League.
During the three seasons playing for the Cosmos he was named in the annual
NASL First Team: the 11 best players of a particular season. He was also named
as the league's most valuable player in 1976. His lucrative contract for Cosmos
meant that Pele had to play in the regular US-based NASL season but also travel
the world playing many exhibition games. During the 3 years Pele played for
Cosmos, he played matches in countries such as: China, Japan, Sweden, Bermuda
and Uganda. In his final year as a professional player, the NY Cosmos won the
1977 NASL Championship. During that season Pele was joined by fellow Brazilian
Carlos Alberto and "the Kaiser", Franz Beckenbauer.
He played his last game as a professional in a friendly match on October 1,
1977, in front of a capacity crowd at Giants Stadium against his old club,
Santos; he played the first half with the Cosmos and the second half with
Santos. The exhibition game was sold out six weeks beforehand. Pelé did appear
in a few friendly games for the Cosmos after he retired in 1977. Due to falling
attendance the Cosmos did try to bring Pelé out of retirement a second time, but
In 2002, Pelé scouted for Premiership Football Team Fulham FC.
In 1995, President Cardoso appointed Pelé to the position of Minister of
Sports. He left after he was allegedly involved in a bribery scandal.
 In 2005, Pelé drew international
media attention due to the imprisonment of Edson Cholbi Nascimento, his son and
ex-goalkeeper of Santos Futebol Clube, who was arrested in an operation to
dismantle a drug gang in southeastern Brazil. Nascimento, the younger (then 35)
was arrested along with some 50 other people after an eight-month investigation
into a cocaine trafficking operation in the port city of Santos.
Pelé is in fourth place on the list of all-time top goalscorers in
international matches, with 77 goals, and equal third place with Ronaldo on the
list of goalscorers in World Cup matches, with 12 goals. He was part of three
World Cup winning teams, although he did not play in the 1962 final through
injury and did not receive a medal. He ended his career with a total of 1281
goals in 1363 matches, becoming the highest goalscorer in professional football
ever. However, less than half of these goals were scored on a professional
basis, the rest being scored in the then-amateur Brazilian championship; hence,
this record is not recognized by any official body. In his 92 appearances for
the Brazilian team, he scored 77 goals.
He was awarded Brazil's Gold Medal for outstanding services to the sport,
before becoming Sports Minister in 1995. In 1997, he was given an honorary
In 1992, Pelé was appointed a United Nations Ambassador for Ecology and the
In 1995, he was appointed an Ambassador for UNESCO at the Goodwill Games.
He was voted athlete of the century by the International Olympic Committee
(IOC) in 1999.
In December 2000, Pelé was named Footballer of the Century by a "Family of
Football" committee appointed by FIFA, after a web poll favoured Diego Maradona.
In the same year, Pelé received the Laureus World Sports Awards Lifetime
Achievement Award from South African President Nelson Mandela.
Pelé is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.
- Pelé was the youngest player to play in a World Cup final at 17 years and
239 days, in Gothenburg, June 19, 1958.
- He is also the youngest player to score in a World Cup final at 17 years
- He married Rosemeri in 1966 which ended in divorce (1978) with 2 children.
He married Assiria on 30 April 1994 and the couple have 2 children.
- In 1970, the two factions involved in the Nigerian Civil War agreed to a
48-hour ceasefire so they could watch Pelé play an exhibition game in Lagos.
- Pelé was the first sports figure featured in a video game with the Atari
2600 game Pelé's Soccer.
- He also played in a friendly match with the Lebanese club Nejmeh in 1974. He
agreed to play with them to pay off his massive debts.
- After the World Cup in 1962, wealthy European clubs offered massive fees to
sign the young player, but the government of Brazil declared Pelé an "official
national treasure" to prevent him from being transferred out of the country.
- Pelé was one of the first black people to be featured on the cover of
- Pelé has presented trophies at the Brazilian Grand Prix race several times,
but in 2002 he was waving the checkered flag to signify the end of the race and
missed the race winner Michael Schumacher crossing the line.
- Pelé has published several autobiographies, starred in documentary and
semi-documentary films and composed various musical pieces, including the entire
soundtrack for the film Pelé in 1977. He had a cameo role, alongside many
other well-known footballers of the 1960s and 1970s, in the film Escape to
Victory, about an attempted escape from a Nazi POW Camp during WWII.
- Tarcisio Burgnich, the famous Italian defender who marked Pelé in the 1970
World Cup Finals: "I told myself before the game, he's made of skin and bones
just like everyone else — but I was wrong".
- Pelé hated his nickname, and was once suspended from school for 2 days for
punching the classmate that coined it.
 The word has no known
meaning, but resembles the Irish language word 'Peile', meaning football, and
the Hebrew word פֶּלֶא, meaning "miracle".
- Pelé states that his most beautiful goal was scored at Rua Javari on a
Campeonato Paulista match against Juventus in 2 August 1959. As there is no
video footage of this match, Pelé asked that a computer animation be made of
this specific goal. This animation can be seen on Pelé Eterno, a
documentary about his career.