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Edison Arantes do Nascimento, KBE (born October 23, 1940 in Três Corações, Brazil), best known by his nickname Pelé, is a Brazilian former football player, rated by many as the greatest footballer of all time. He was given the title of Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee. While his birth certificate shows his first name as Edison (after the American inventor), he prefers to call himself Edson, but it is as Pelé that he has become a sporting legend.
In his native Brazil, Pelé is hailed as a national hero. He is known for his accomplishments and contributions to the game of football, in addition to being officially declared the football ambassador of the world by FIFA and a national treasure by the Brazilian government. He is also acknowledged for his vocal support of policies to improve the social conditions of the poor (when he scored his 1,000th goal he dedicated it to the poor children of Brazil). During his career, he became known as "The King of Football" (O Rei do Futebol), "The King Pelé" (O Rei Pelé) or simply "The King" (O Rei). He is also a member of the American National Soccer Hall of Fame.
Spotted by football star Waldemar de Brito, Pelé began playing for Santos Futebol Clube at 15 and his national team at 16, and won his first World Cup at 17. Despite numerous offers from European clubs, the current economic conditions and Brazilian Football regulations benefited Santos FC, thus enabling them to keep Pelé for almost two decades until his semi-retirement in 1974. Pelé played as an inside forward, striker, and what later became known as the playmaker position. Pelé's technique and natural athleticism have been universally praised; he was renowned for his excellent dribbling and passing, his pace, powerful shot, exceptional heading ability, and prolific goalscoring.
He is the all-time top scorer in the history of the Brazil national football team and is the only footballer to be a part of three World Cup-winning teams. In 1962 he was part of the Brazilian squad but due to an injury suffered in the 2nd match did not play the whole Cup. Officially, just in November 2007 FIFA announced that he would be awarded the 1962 medal retroactively, making him the only player in the world to have three World Cup gold medals.
Growing up in poverty in Bauru, São Paulo, Pelé earned extra money by shining shoes at the Bauru Athletic Club on match days. Taught to play by his father, whose own professional football career with Atlético Mineiro ended prematurely due to a knee injury, he could not afford a proper football and usually played with either a sock stuffed with newspaper, tied with a string or a grapefruit.
In 1954, several members of the Ameriquinha team, including Pelé, were invited to join the Baquinho boy's team to be managed by former Brazilian international Waldemar de Brito, who played in the 1934 World Cup in Italy.
At the age of 15 and a half, he joined the Santos FC junior team. He played for one season before joining the senior team.
In 1956, de Brito took Pelé to Santos, an industrial and port city in the state of São Paulo, to try out for professional club Santos Futebol Clube telling the directors at Santos that the 15-year-old would be "the greatest football player in the world."
Pelé made his debut for Santos in September 7, 1956, scoring one goal in a 7–1 friendly victory over Corinthians. When the 1957 season started, Pelé was given a starting place in the first team and, at the age of just 16, became the top scorer in the league. Just ten months after signing professionally, the teenager was called up to the Brazil national team. 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.
On November 19, 1969, Pelé scored his 1000th goal in all competitions. This was a highly anticipated moment in Brazil. The goal, called popularly 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 beautiful goal was scored at Rua Javari stadium on a Campeonato Paulista match against São Paulo rivals Juventus on August 2, 1959. As there is no video footage of this match, Pelé asked that a computer animation be made of this specific goal. In March 1961, Pelé scored the gol de placa (goal worthy of a plaque), a goal against Fluminense at the Maracanã which was regarded as so spectacular that a plaque was commissioned with a dedication to the most beautiful goal in the history of the Maracanã.
On October 1, 1977, Pelé closed out his legendary career in an exhibition match between the Cosmos and Santos. Santos arrived in New York and New Jersey after previously defeating the Seattle Sounders 2–0. The match was played in front of a capacity 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. Pelé gave a brief pre-match speech during which he asked the crowd to say the word "love" with him three times. He played the first half for the Cosmos and the second half for Santos. Reynaldo scored the first goal for Santos, kicking the ball into the net after it had deflected off the crossbar. Pelé then scored his final goal on a direct free kick, driving the ball past the diving Santos goalkeeper. At halftime, the Cosmos retired Pelé's number 10. Pelé presented his Cosmos shirt to his father, who was escorted to the field by Cosmos captain Werner Roth. During the second half, Cosmos striker Ramon Mifflin, who had replaced Pelé when he switched sides at halftime, scored on a deflected cross, and the Cosmos won the match 2–1. After the match, Pelé was embraced by the Cosmos players, including longtime rival Giorgio Chinaglia, and then ran around the field while holding an American flag in his left hand and a Brazilian flag in his right hand. Pelé was soon lifted by several Cosmos players and carried around the field.
On 19 June 1958 Pelé became the youngest player to play in a World Cup final match at 17 years and 249 days. He scored two goals in the final as Brazil beat Sweden 5–2. His first goal, a lob over a defender followed by a precise volley shot, was selected as one of the best goals in the history of the World Cup. When the match ended, he passed out on the field, and had to be attended by the medical staff. He then recovered, and was visibly compelled by the victory, in tears as being congratulated by his teammates. He finished the tournament with six goals in four matches played, tied for second place, behind record-breaker Just Fontaine.
In the first match, against Czechoslovakia, Pelé gave Brazil a 2–1 lead after controlling Gerson's pass with his chest. Brazil went on to win the match, 4–1. On the first half of the match against England, he nearly scored with a header that was spectacularly saved by Gordon Banks. On the second half, he assisted Jairzinho for the only goal of the match. Against Romania, he opened the score on a direct free kick goal, a strong strike with the outside of his right foot. Later on the match he scored again to put the score 3–1. Brazil won by a final score of 3–2. In quarterfinals against Peru, Brazil won 4–2, with Pelé assisting Tostão on his team's third goal. In the semi-finals, Brazil faced Uruguay for the first time since the 1950 World Cup final round match. Jairzinho put Brazil ahead 2–1, and Pelé assisted Rivelino for the 3–1. During that match, Pelé made one of his most famous plays. Tostão gave Pelé a through ball, and Uruguay's goalkeeper Ladislao Mazurkiewicz took notice of it. The keeper ran off of his line to get the ball before Pelé, but Pelé got there first, and without touching the ball, he caused it to go past the keeper, to the latter's left, while Pelé went right. Pelé went around the goalkeeper and took a shot while turning towards the goal, but he turned in excess as he shot, and the ball drifted just wide of the far post.
Brazil played Italy in the final, with Pelé scoring the opener on a header over defender Tarcisio Burgnich. He then made assists on Jairzinho's and Carlos Alberto's goals, the latter one after an impressive collective play. Brazil won the match 4–1, keeping the Jules Rimet Trophy indefinitely. Burgnich, who marked Pelé during the match, was quoted saying "I told myself before the game, he's made of skin and bones just like everyone else — but I was wrong".
Pelé's last international match was on July 18, 1971 against Yugoslavia in Rio de Janeiro. With Pelé on the field, the Brazilian team's record was 67 wins, 14 draws, and 11 losses, and went on to win three World Cups. Brazil never lost a match while fielding both Pelé and Garrincha.
The tally of 32 team trophies makes him, together with Vítor Baía, the player with most career titles.
In December 2000, Pelé was named Footballer of the Century by FIFA. The award was intended to be based upon votes in a web poll, but after it became apparent that it favoured Diego Maradona, many observers complained that the Internet nature of the poll would have meant a skewed demographic of younger fans who would have seen Maradona play, but not Pelé. FIFA then appointed a "Family of Football" committee of soccer experts to decide the winner of the award. Maradona was instead awarded the title of FIFA Internet Player of the Century. Allegations that the Internet poll had been bombarded by Argentine fans still remain to this day.
A consensus of media and expert polls rank Pelé as the greatest footballer of all time.
In 2005 Pelé won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award.
The tables below record every goal Pelé scored in major club competitions for Santos and the New York Cosmos. During much of Pelé's playing career in Brazil there was no national league championship. From 1960 onwards the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) were required to provide meritocratic entrants for the then-new Copa Libertadores, a South American international club competition broadly equivalent to the European Cup. To enable them to do this, the CBF organised two national competitions: the Taça de Prata and Taça Brasil. A national league championship, the Campeonato Brasileiro, was first played in 1971, alongside traditional state and interstate competitions such as the Campeonato Paulista and the Torneio Rio-São Paulo.
The number of league goals scored by Pelé is listed as 589 in 605 games. This number is the sum of the goals scored by Pelé in domestic league-based competitions: the Campeonato Paulista (SPS), Torneio Rio-São Paulo (RSPS), Taça de Prata and Campeonato Brasileiro. The Taça Brasil was a national competition organised on a knockout basis.
|Club||Season||Domestic League Competitions||Domestic League|
|Domestic Cup||International Club Competitions||Official|
|SPS||RSPS||T. de Prata||Camp. Brasil.||T. Brasil||Copa Libertadores||Intercontinental Cup|
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The most notable area of Pelé's life since football is his ambassadorial work for various bodies. In 1992, Pelé was appointed a United Nations ambassador for ecology and the environment. He was awarded Brazil's Gold Medal for outstanding services to the sport in 1995, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso appointed him to the position of "Extraordinary Minister for Sport" and he was appointed a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. During this time he proposed legislation to reduce corruption in Brazilian football, which became known as the Pelé law. Pelé left his position in 2001 after he was accused of involvement in a corruption scandal, although nothing has been proved so far. In 1997 he was given an honorary British knighthood.
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 appeared, alongside other footballers of the 1960s and 1970s, Michael Caine, and Sylvester Stallone, in the 1981 film Escape to Victory, about an attempted escape from a World War II Nazi POW Camp. Pelé was the first sports figure featured in a video game with the Atari 2600 game Pelé's Soccer.
Pelé signed a major autobiographical book deal in 2006, resulting in a giant-sized, 45 cm × 35 cm, 2,500 unit limited-edition collectible "Pelé", created by UK luxury publishers, Gloria, as the first-ever football "big book". In the same period, Pelé received a lifetime achievement award from the BBC and in June 2006, helped inaugurate the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals, alongside supermodel Claudia Schiffer. Pelé has also helped to promote viagra and raise the awareness of impotency.
Pelé was guest of honour at the world's oldest football club, Sheffield F.C.'s 150th anniversary match v Inter Milan in November 2007. Inter won 5–2 in front of an appreciative crowd of nearly 19,000 at Bramall Lane. As part of his visit, Pelé opened an exhibition which included the first public showing in 40 years of the original hand written rules of football.