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Pele Biography

Pele is the most iconic footballer of the
Twentieth Century. He epitomised the flair, joy
and passion the Brazilians bought to the game.
Pele was born Edson Arantes do Nascimento on
23 October 1940 in Três Corações, Minas Gerais,
Brazil. He was named after the American
inventor Thomas Edison (his parents removed
the i). In his childhood, he gained a nickname
‘Pele’ – after he mispronouced the name of a
goalkeeper ‘Bile’ – Initially Pele disliked it and
complained, but the more he complained, the
more it stuck. Pele has no meaning, though the
word Bilé is Hebrew for “miracle.”
Pele grew up in poverty in São Paulo. He was
taught to play football by his father (who used to
play football), but often he had to practise with a
sock stuffed with newspapers because he could
not afford to buy a football. As well as playing
football, he worked as a waiter in local tea
In his youth, Pele played in indoor leagues, and
this helped increase his speed of reactions. He
rose through the youth leagues and at the age of
15 was signed by Santos FC. He was soon
marked out as a future star. By the age of 16 he
was the top scorer in the Brazilian league and
received a call up for the Brazilian national side.
Interest was such that the Brazilian President
declared Pele a national treasure to prevent him
being bought by foreign clubs such as
Manchester United.
As a teenager, the young and unknown Pele
helped inspire Brazil to victory in the 1958 World
Cup. He scored in the final during a 5-2 win over
Sweden and finished the competition with six
goals and a reputation as the brightest prospect
in football. In 1962, Pele helped Brazil to retain
the World Cup. In 1966, Brazil were hot
favourites, but, lost out to the home nation
His crowning glory was the Brazilian victory in
the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. In this World Cup,
some of the football played by Brazil and Pele
was widely considered to the greatest in the
history of the game. Brazil won the final 4-1
against Italy; it was a genuine advertisement for
the ‘beautiful game’ and a fitting pinnacle of
Pele’s international career.
Pele went on to score over 1,000 goals in
professional games. (The 1000th goal coming as
a penalty in the US league – sparking
celebrations around the world). His strike rate in
international games was one of the highest ever.
In 92 appearances, he scored 77 goals.
In the domestic league, Pele made his debut for
Santos aged just 16. He played for Santos in the
Brazilian league from until the 1972-73 season.
Pele finished his career in the lucrative US
league. In 1975, he signed for New York Cosmos
and played three seasons. He led the New York
Cosmos to the US title in 1977 – the year of his
After retiring has gone on to be a great
ambassador for football and sport in general. In
1992, Pelé was appointed a UN ambassador for
ecology and the environment. He was also
appointed a UNESCO goodwill ambassador. He is
not only one of the most gifted footballers of his
generation, but, also a mild-mannered man who
used his fame and prestige for a positive effect.
Some Highlights of Pele’s Career
Athlete of the Century , by Reuters News
Agency: 1999
Athlete of the Century , elected by International
Olympic Committee: 1999
UNICEF Football Player of the Century : 1999
TIME One of the 100 Most Important People of
the 20th Century : 1999
FIFA Player of the Century : 2000

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