When it comes to listing the most influential and notable football players of all time, Pelé is most certainly up there with the greats. In Brazilian football, Pelé is one of the most renowned players to ever take to the pitch and from an early age this was noticeable. He gathered a large following globally after his magnificent technique and ability to accurately anticipate the opposition’s tactics were showcased to the world during his international career.
Throughout this article we are going to take a look into the history of Pelé’s football career in Brazil and internationally as a professional. As well as this, we are going to review how he got fast tracked to the first team after only 10 months of playing in his senior career. We are also going to explore what he is currently up to at the moment along with noting his numerous amounts of honours and awards. Therefore, if you want to find out more about Pelé and his successes, then keep on reading.
The Early Years of Pelé
Pelé was born in Brazil on the 23rd October 1940 and was given the name Edson Arantes do Nascimento which was inspired by Thomas Edison, but his parents preferred Edson. His father was also a footballer who went by the nickname Dondinho and had two younger brothers. Edson was originally known as ‘Dico’ by his family; however he acquired the nickname ‘Pelé’ when at school. This was because of his pronunciation of his favourite football player ‘Bile’.
Although Pelé grew up in the poverty stricken Bauru areas of Sao Paulo, he managed to earn money by working in local cafés and was also taught to play soccer by his professional footballer Dad. Unfortunately as money was tight, they practiced the art of football using a sock filled with paper and tied to hold the stuffing inside, or a grapefruit.
After expert training from his father, in his early teenage years Pelé went on to play for a number of amateur teams such as Sete de Setembro, Canto do Rio, Rao Paulinho and Ameriquinha. He also played a lot of indoor football as well which helped him fine tune his anticipation and agility in the game. Which lead to him signing with Santos at only 15 years old and after only 1 year playing as a senior, he was recruited for the Brazilian national team.
Pelé Takes the World by Storm
We have just looked into a brief history of Pelé’s background and how he came to establish himself in the football world. However now we are going to look at how he performed over the many years he played soccer professionally during his senior career.
At the beginning of his senior career he shocked the soccer community when after only ten months playing for Santos, he was called up to join the Brazilian national team. This was purely down to the fact he successfully scored his first goal professionally during his first fixture against Corinthians Santo Andre. When the next season started he was given a place on the first team at only 16 years old and become the top scorer in the football league.
His first ever tournament he played in was the Campeonato Paulista and Pelé finished the season as a top scorer with 58 goals to his name. This achievement set a record which still is yet to be broken. He was also the youngest player to ever compete in the World Cup at 16 years old during the 1958 World Cup.
He only played two World Cup tournaments with Brazil before he captivated soccer coaches worldwide. Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester United all had interest in signing the forward, with Inter Milan almost sealing the deal in 1958. But unfortunately, the Brazilian President Janio Quadros declared Pelé an ‘official national treasure’ which meant that he was unable to move out of the country.
The Infamous Number 10 Brazilian Football Jersey
The number 10 football shirt is usually reserved for the older player on the team or the team’s play-maker. However, Pelé was left taken aback when handed the number 10 at only 16 years old. This was his first tournament with the national team and to be given the most important number on the team ahead of the 1958 World Cup.Due to Pelé’s huge impact on the international soccer world when playing with the Brazilian national team, we found that the lust for the replica number 10 jersey was at an all-time high. But after an interview a few years ago, Pelé revealed that the number 10 was not intended specifically for him.
From then on Pelé acquired a number of personal and team achievements when wearing this signature jersey. Therefore, making the special feeling of donning the number 10 on his back, all that more rewarding.
Throughout his successful career, Pelé has gained a number of awards from personal performance to team triumphs. Below we are going to explore the achievements acquired by Pelé along with the years he gained them. However, along with those mentioned below, there is also a long list of other honours too.
Let’s begin with the awards he was given purely on his performance during that specific season. As we can see in the breakdown, we can see that his most successful tournament was when he was playing for Santos in the Campeonato Paulista. This is because he was awarded the top scorer trophy almost consecutively for an entire decade:
- Copa Liberatores Top Scorer – 1965
- Intercontinental Cup Top Scorer – 1962, 1963
- Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A Top Scorer – 1961, 1963, 1964
- Campeonato Paulista Top Scorer – 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1969, 1973
- Torneio Rio-Sao Paulo Top Scorer – 1963
- Bola de Prata – 1970
- FIFA World Cup Best Young Player – 1958
- FIFA World Cup Silver Ball – 1958
- FIFA World Cup Golden Ball (Best Player) – 1970
- South American Championship Best Player – 1959
- South American Championship Top Scorer – 1959
After breaking down just how many awards Pelé was given for his skill, we can definitely say that he took the world by storm on the pitch. However, when playing for Santos, Brazil and New York Cosmos, he also was part of the playing squad when they lifted an abundance of trophies. Listed below is the breakdown of these wins along with the seasons they were gained:
- FIFA World Cup Champions (Brazil) – 1958, 1962, 1970
- Campeonato Brasilerio Serie A (Santos) – 1961, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1968
- Copa Libertadores (Santos) – 1962, 1963
- Intercontinental Cup (Santos) – 1962, 1963
- Intercontinental Supercup (Santos) – 1968
- Campeonato Paulista (Santos) – 1958, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1973
- Torneio Rio-Sao Paulo (Santos) – 1959, 1963, 1964
- North American Soccer League Soccer Bowl (New York Cosmos) – 1977
- North American Soccer League, Atlantic Conference Championship (New York Cosmos) - 1977
Also, when reviewing his overall goal performance with every team over the years we can see that he has gained a large following through his successes. Below is a list of the goals scored by Pelé during his time with the three teams he played for across his senior career:
- Santos (1956-1974) – 638 Appearances, 619 Goals
- New York Cosmos (1975-1977) – 56 Appearances, 31 Goals
- Brazil (1957-1971) – 92 Caps, 77 Goals
This brings his full career total for tournament goals scored to an outstanding 727 over 20 years.
Pelé’s Life after Professional Football
After playing football professionally through from 1956 to 1977, Pelé still had the world talking about his outstanding technique and presence on the pitch. He was able to expertly anticipate an opponent’s move and counteract them with power of such which made him unstoppable once in possession of the ball. This attacking technique and impressive accuracy when scoring is what made his style of play the most captivating to watch by all. He literally gave the game everything he had and this true dedication to the sport is the main reason why fans worldwide still recall his successes as if they were yesterday.
He is a charismatic player too which made his team mates bounce of his devotion to soccer and admire him for his precise technique. Although he performed with an attacking position, he was a fantastic sportsman. And one of the biggest moments ever recalled in history was the fact that following the Brazil V England match during the 1970 World Cup his warm embrace with Bobby Moore was inspirational to many. And down to his great skill and mannerisms, he went on to do so much more for the soccer community once he retired.
Due to his charisma and thrive to succeed while still remaining humble and a true sportsman, Pelé was awarded a number of honours and ambassadorial roles after his soccer career came to an end. In 1994, Pelé was made the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and shortly after that he was appointed the Extraordinary Minister for Sport by the Brazilian President. Within his placement in this role, he proposed a piece of legislation which was regarding the corrupt nature of football in Brazil for players young and old. Unfortunately, this role lasted only a few years as he decided to stand down in 2001 after accusations were placed against him by UNICEF but were not proven.
Prior to this incident Pelé was also awarded an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II in 1997 at Buckingham Palace. He was also accompanied by Claudia Schiffer when they both inaugurated the 2006 FIFA World Cup Finals which took place in Germany. And throughout his retired career from international football, Pelé went on to take part in a number of ambassadorial roles and worked with a range of causes such as the 2012 Olympic Hunger Summit. He also has published several autobiographies and starred in documentary films like Escape to Victory. There was also a film created about his life and career and he composed the musical soundtrack to the movie.
Did Pelé Have a Timeless Impact on Football?
Throughout this article we have taken a look at how Pelé started his career, his most successful achievements for performance and all of the sports related work he is doing currently outside of the game. However, we want to know if you have any opinions on Pelé. Do you find him a great influence on how soccer has evolved in Brazil and beyond? Or has another player impacted more? Let us know over on our social media pages as we would love to know your thoughts and feelings on this topic.
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This article was written exclusively for Soccer Box by Loren Astbury