By Dr.Sulakshi Thelikorala
It has been only a few months since the 19th FIFA World Cup concluded with the Spanish grabbing the championship in style. Even before the excitement of soccer fades away, Pelé the King of Soccer celebrates his 70th Birthday today, 23 October 2010.
Pelé is world renowned as the best soccer player of all time. He has added energy and life into Brazilian football taking it into greater heights. The golden era of Brazilian football was dominated by none other than Pelé and his contemporary players. He is amongst the few athletes who have commanded global notoriety and has made an immense contribution to the “Beautiful Game” Soccer.
Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento on the 23rd of October 1940 in Tres Coracoes, Brazil, Pelé became the youngest player to score in International football. The name Edson was bestowed upon him by his parents, Maria Celeste Arantes and Dondinho, after Thomas Alva Edison, the great American inventor.
Brazilians are fond of nick names and Pelé himself was never short of nicknames. First came “Dico”, the nick name used by his family and “Gasolina” by his home soccer club. His widely admired name Pelé originated as he used to mispronounce the name Bilé of his favourite soccer player. Initially, young Edson wasn’t fond of his two syllable nickname and even punched his classmates earning a two day suspension from school for calling him Pelé.
Pelé entered the sporting arena at a very young age to become the youngest player to score in the most celebrated FIFA World Cup. The initial footsteps were laid at an early age of four years as his father Dondinho was a professional local football player who had his way forward in soccer until he was haltered with a fractured leg.
His destiny changed when Waldemar de Brito, a former Brazilian world cup player discovered the eleven year old Pelé playing for an uncoached amateur team. Brito introduced him to “Santos” a midlevel professional soccer club at the age of 15 years and predicted that this boy will be the greatest soccer players in the world one day.
It was his perseverance and love for the game that Pelé was called to the National Football Team of Brazil just short of ten months after signing the contract with his professional foot ball club “Santos”. He played his debut international football match with Argentina where scored his maiden goal to become the youngest player to score in International Football.
In 1958, the seventeen year old Pelé played his first FIFA World Cup which was also the first world cup to be broadcasted around the world. The child prodigy took the international arena by storm with his debut world cup. The soccer legend took Brazil into another FIFA victory with his opening goal in the final match with Sweden which was Brazil’s hundredth goal in the world cup history. Thus, Pelé walked away with the “Sliver Boot” for the second best goal soccer of the entire tournament with six goals and the “Silver Ball” for the second most outstanding player in the FIFA World Cup Final.
Pelé became the first player to play on three World Cup Championships in 1958, 1962 and 1970. In his final world cup in 1970, he was awarded the “Golden Ball” for the most outstanding player in a world cup final taking Brazil into a four to one victory against Italy.
Pelé toured throughout the world with Santos maintaining his reputation as the King of Soccer. After 18 years with Santos, he bided farewell to soccer in 1974 at the peak of his soccer carrier. Nevertheless, the legend came out of retirement an year later in 1975 to join the Cosmos Club of the North American Soccer League on a 3 year contract.
Pelé’s carrier statistics are endless. He had participated in 1,362 matches with 1,280 goals. Furthermore, he holds the record for the most World Cup Championship by any single player with three and the youngest to complete a hat trick.
At the age of 26 years, the world renowned soccer star married Rosemeri dos Reis Cholby and has three children. Following his divorce, he remarried psychologist Assiria Lemos Seixas and have twins.
Pelé didn’t restrict his life to football but went to act in several movies. Moreover, he is a noted philanthropist and a free lance goodwill ambassador aiding in humanitarian causes. The legend’s life story is portrayed picturesquely in his autobiography “My Life and the Beautiful Game”.
It is widely believed that apart from Mohammad Ali, no player could ever rival such amount of popularity. Interestingly, in the early seventies his name was ranked on top of the popular brands list just below Coca Cola. He even shared the headlines in the American newspapers together with the second Apollo mission to the moon.