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Pelé
- Pelé 001
Personal information
Full name Edson Arantes do Nascimento
Date of birth 21 October 1940 (1940-10-21) (age 79)
Place of birth    Três Corações, Brazil Brazil
Height 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)
Playing position Forward
Attacking midfielder
Youth clubs
1953-1956 Brazil Bauru
Senior clubs
Years Club App (Gls)
1956-1974
1975-1977
Total
Brazil Santos
Flag of the United States New York Cosmos
638 (619)
056 0(31)
694 (650)   
National team
1957–1971 Brazil Brazil 097 0(77)

Early years

Pelé was born Edson Arantes do Nascimento on 23 October 1940, in Três Corações, Minas Gerais, Brazil, the son of Fluminense footballer Dondinho (born João Ramos do Nascimento) and Celeste Arantes. He was the elder of two siblings.[1] He was named after the American inventor Thomas Edison.[2] His parents decided to remove the "i" and call him "Edson", but there was a mistake on the birth certificate, leading many documents to show his name as "Edison", not "Edson", as he is called.

He was originally nicknamed "Dico" by his family. He received the nickname "Pelé" during his school days when it is claimed he was given it because of his pronunciation of the name of his favorite player, local Vasco da Gama goalkeeper Bilé, which he misspoke but the more he complained the more it stuck. In his autobiography, Pelé stated he had no idea what the name means, nor did his old friends.[1] Apart from the assertion that the name is derived from that of Bilé, and that it is Hebrew for "miracle" (פֶּ֫לֶא), the word has no known meaning in Portuguese.[note 1][5]

Pelé grew up in poverty in Bauru in the state of São Paulo. He earned extra money by working in tea shops as a servant. 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 a string or a grapefruit.[6][1] He played for several amateur teams in his youth, including Sete de SetembroCanto do RioSão Paulinho, and Amériquinha.[7] Pelé led Bauru Athletic Club juniors (coached by Waldemar de Brito) to two São Paulo state youth championships.[8] In his mid-teens, he played for an indoor football team called Radium. Indoor football had just become popular in Bauru when Pelé began playing it. He was part of the first Futebol de Salão (indoor football) competition in the region. Pelé and his team won the first championship and several others.[9]

According to Pelé, indoor football presented difficult challenges; he said it was a lot quicker than football on the grass and that players were required to think faster because everyone is close to each other in the pitch. Pelé accredits indoor football for helping him think better on the spot. In addition, indoor football allowed him to play with adults when he was about 14 years old. In one of the tournaments he participated, he was initially considered too young to play, but eventually went on to end up top scorer with fourteen or fifteen goals. "That gave me a lot of confidence", Pelé said, "I knew then not to be afraid of whatever might come".

Club Career

Santos

In 1956, de Brito took Pelé to Santos, an industrial and port city located near São Paulo, to try out for professional club Santos FC, telling the directors at Santos that the 15-year-old would be "the greatest football player in the world."[10] Pelé impressed Santos coach Lula during his trial at the Estádio Vila Belmiro, and he signed a professional contract with the club in June 1956.[11] Pelé was highly promoted in the local media as a future superstar. He made his senior team debut on 7 September 1956 at the age of 15 against Corinthians Santo Andre and had an impressive performance in a 7–1 victory, scoring the first goal in his prolific career during the match. When the 1957 season started, Pelé was given a starting place in the first team and, at the age of 16, became the top scorer in the league. 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 and Manchester United,[14] tried to sign him in vain; in 1958 Inter Milan even managed to get him a regular contract, but Angelo Moratti was forced to tear the contract up at the request of Santos' chairman following a revolt by Santos' Brazilian fans. However, 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. Pelé won his first major title with Santos in 1958 as the team won the Campeonato Paulista; Pelé would finish the tournament as top scorer with 58 goals,[17] a record that stands today. A year later, he would help the team earn their first victory in the Torneio Rio-São Paulo with a 3–0 over Vasco da Gama.[18] However, Santos was unable to retain the Paulista title. In 1960, Pelé scored 33 goals to help his team regain the Campeonato Paulista trophy but lost out on the Rio-São Paulo tournament after finishing in 8th place.[19] In the 1960 season, Pelé scored 47 goals and helped Santos regain the Campeonato Paulista. The club went on to win the Taça Brasil that same year, beating Bahia in the finals; Pelé finished as top scorer of the tournament with 9 goals. The victory allowed Santos to participate in the Copa Libertadores, the most prestigious club tournament in the Western hemisphere.[20]

"I arrived hoping to stop a great man, but I went away convinced I had been undone by someone who was not born on the same planet as the rest of us."

Santos's most successful Copa Libertadores season started in 1962;[22] the team was seeded in Group One alongside Cerro Porteño and Deportivo Municipal Bolivia, winning every match of their group but one (a 1–1 away tie versus Cerro). Santos defeated Universidad Católica in the semi-finals and met defending champions Peñarol in the finals. Pelé scored twice in the playoff match to secure the first title for a Brazilian club.[23] Pelé finished as the second top scorer of the competition with four goals. That same year, Santos would successfully defend the Campeonato Brasileiro (with 37 goals from Pelé) and the Taça Brasil (Pelé scoring four goals in the final series against Botafogo). Santos would also win the 1962 Intercontinental Cup against Benfica.[24] Wearing his number 10 shirt, Pelé produced one of the best performances of his career, scoring a hat-trick in Lisbon as Santos won 5–2.[25][26] As the defending champions, Santos qualified automatically to the semi-final stage of the 1963 Copa Libertadores. The ballet blanco, the nickname given to Santos for Pelé, managed to retain the title after victories over Botafogo and Boca Juniors. Pelé helped Santos overcome a Botafogo team that contained Brazilian legends such as Garrincha and Jairzinho with a last-minute goal in the first leg of the semi-finals which made it 1–1. In the second leg, Pelé scored a hat-trick in the Estádio do Maracanã as Santos won, 0–4, in the second leg. Santos started the final series by winning, 3–2, in the first leg and defeating Boca Juniors 1–2, in La Bombonera. It was a rare feat in official competitions, with another goal from Pelé.[27] Santos became the first (and to date the only) Brazilian team to lift the Copa Libertadores in Argentine soil. Pelé finished the tournament with 5 goals. Santos lost the Campeonato Paulista after finishing in third place but went on to win the Rio-São Paulo tournament after a 0–3 win over Flamengo in the final, with Pelé scoring one goal. Pelé would also help Santos retain the Intercontinental Cup and the Taça Brasil against Milan and Bahia respectively.[24]

Pelé (pictured in 1965) is the all-time leading goalscorer for Santos.

In the 1964 Copa Libertadores, Santos were beaten in both legs of the semi-finals by Independiente. The club won the Campeonato Paulista, with Pelé netting 34 goals. Santos also shared the Rio-São Paulo title with Botafogo and won the Taça Brasil for the fourth consecutive year. In the 1965 Copa Libertadores, Santos reached the semi-finals and met Peñarol in a rematch of the 1962 final. After two matches, a playoff was needed to break the tie.[28] Unlike 1962, Peñarol came out on top and eliminated Santos 2–1.[28] Pelé would, however, finish as the topscorer of the tournament with eight goals.[29] This proved to be the start of a decline as Santos failed to retain the Torneio Rio-São Paulo. In 1966, Pelé and Santos also failed to retain the Taça Brasil as Pelé's goals were not enough to prevent a 9–4 defeat by Cruzeiro (led by Tostão) in the final series. The club did, however, win the Campeonato Paulista in 1967, 1968 and 1969. On 19 November 1969, Pelé scored his 1000th goal in all competitions, in what was a highly anticipated moment in Brazil. The goal, popularly dubbed O Milésimo (The Thousandth), occurred in a match against Vasco da Gama, when Pelé scored from a penalty kick, at the Maracanã Stadium. Pelé states that his most memorable goal was scored at Rua Javari stadium on a Campeonato Paulista match against São Paulo rival Clube Atlético Juventus on 2 August 1959. As there is no video footage of this match, Pelé asked that a computer animation be made of this specific goal.[31] In March 1961, Pelé scored the gol de placa (goal worthy of a plaque), against Fluminense at the Maracanã.[32] Pelé received the ball on the edge of his own penalty area, and ran the length of the field, eluding opposition players with feints, before striking the ball beyond the goalkeeper.[32] A plaque was commissioned with a dedication to "the most beautiful goal in the history of the Maracanã".[33]

In 1967, 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.[34] During his time at Santos, Pelé played alongside many gifted players, including Zito, Pepe, and Coutinho; the latter partnered him in numerous one-two plays, attacks, and goals.

New York Cosmos

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. Two years 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.[36] Though well past his prime at this point, Pelé was credited with significantly increasing public awareness and interest of the sport in the United States.[37] During his first public appearance in Boston, he was injured by a crowd of fans who had surrounded him and was evacuated on a stretcher.[38] Pelé made his debut for the Cosmos on 15 June 1975 against the Dallas Tornado at Downing Stadium, scoring one goal in a 2–2 draw.[39]

Pelé entering the field to play his first game with the Cosmos, 15 June 1975

In 1975, one week before the Lebanese Civil War, Pelé played a friendly game for the Lebanese club Nejmeh against a team of Lebanese Premier League stars,[40] scoring two goals which were not included in his official tally.[41][42] On the day of the game, 40,000 spectators were at the stadium from early morning to watch the match.[40]

Hoping to fuel the same kind of awareness in the Dominican Republic, he and the Cosmos team played in an exhibition match against Haitian team, Violette AC, in the Santo Domingo Olympic Stadium on 3 June 1976, where over 25,000 fans watched him score a winning goal in the last seconds of the match, leading the Cosmos to a 2–1 victory. He led the Cosmos to the 1977 NASL championship, in his third and final season with the club.[44]

On 1 October 1977, Pelé closed out his career in an exhibition match between the Cosmos and Santos. Santos arrived in New York after previously defeating the Seattle Sounders in New Jersey, 2–0. The match was played in front of a sold-out crowd at Giants Stadium and was televised in the United States on ABC's Wide World of Sports as well as throughout the world. Pelé's father and wife both attended the match, as well as Muhammad Ali and Bobby Moore.

International career

Pelé played his first international match on 7 July 1957, in a 2-1 loss to Argentina. He scored in this match, becoming the youngest player ever to score in international football (he was 16 years and 9 months).

Career statistics

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Honours

Clubs

Santos
New York Cosmos

National Team

Individual

External links

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