10 things that you probably did not know about Pelé
Pelé: The three-time World Cup winner’s footballing career featured unbridled accomplishments, including scoring close to 1300 goals. The following are 10 things that you probably did know about Pelé, Brazil’s greatest soccer player of all time:
He was named after a famous American inventor
Pelé was born on October 23, 1940 in Três Corações, Brazil. His full name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento. He was named after the famous American inventor Thomas Edison. Before rising to fame, he spent much of his childhood in the city of Bauru.
Grew up in a poor home
Pelé was born into an extreme level of poverty. His father, João Ramos (also known as “Dondinho”), was a former soccer player, plying his trade with a number of teams, including Atlético Mineiro and Fluminense. Regardless, his parents still struggled to make ends meet. Pelé sometimes stuffed rags into his socks to make a ball, as his parents could not afford to buy a football for him.
Pelé’s talents were nurtured by a former national team player
Pelé’s talent was nurtured by both his father and Waldemar de Brito. The latter, who was a coach at the youth level, played for the Brazilian national team during his hay days. Brito was the one who successfully convinced Pelé’s parents to let Pelé, then 15 years old, to head to the soccer club Santos.
Scored his first professional goal before he turned 16
Realizing how extremely good Pelé was, officials at Santos quickly put pen to paper and signed him. The youngster scored his first professional goal before he even turned 16. His abilities were simply way beyond his age. Even at that age he showed refined athletic and passing abilities.
Pelé went by a number of different nicknames
Growing up, Pelé went by a number of nicknames, including the nickname “Dico”. But did you know that he was not a big fan of his nickname “Pelé”?
It remains a bit unclear where his name “Pelé” came from. Some family members stated that the name came from his mispronunciation of Bilé, the goalie of Vasco da Gama soccer club. According to his biography, the name simply has no meaning. Interestingly, Bilé is the Hebrew word for “miracle”. Well, in that case, Pelé was certainly a “Bilé” without a shred of doubt.
Entered the national team in his teens
He played for the Brazilian national team before turning 18. Pelé made his first cap for Brazil on July 7, 1957. His last cap came on July 18 1971. All in all, his professional playing days lasted for close to two decades, as he played for just two clubs – Santos Football Club and New York Cosmos.
He could score with either foot
He was such a gifted player that he could strike the ball, even from a long range, with either foot. Additionally, his game was not just centered on putting the ball in the back of the net; but was also prolific at providing assists for his teammates. His vision, speed, and dribbling prowess were simply off the charts.
Knighted by the Queen
In 1997, Pelé was given the honorary title of Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE) by Queen Elizabeth II. He was bestowed upon this honor for his decades of commitment to numerous noble causes across the globe.
The greatest of all time
Pelé had some incredible epithets in his lifetime; for example the world governing body of soccer, FIFA, described him as “the greatest”. In 1999, the world governing body of soccer, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), named Pelé, along with the late Argentine superstar Diego Armando Maradona, as the greatest soccer players of the 20th century.
Often times, soccer pundits and historians have struggled picking between Pelé and the Argentine talisman Maradona. However, in 1999, the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) named him the World Player of the Century. Similarly, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), voted him the Athlete of the Century, beating other greats like Mohammad Ali and even soccer legend Maradona.
Fast Facts about Pelé
Birth name: Edson Arantes do Nascimento
Date of birth: October 23, 1940
Place of birth: Três Corações, Brazil
Parents: João Ramos do Nascimento (also known as Dondinho) and Dona Celeste Arantes
Nickname: “O Rei”, “Black Pearl”, “Pérola Negra”, “Dico”
Clubs played for: Santos FC, New York Cosmos
Accomplishments: Three-time FIFA World Cup champion with the Brazilian national team; FIFA Co-Player of the Century; Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE); Brazil’s all-time leading goal scorer
Other interesting facts about Pelé
Pelé served in a number of official roles in Brazil, including serving as the Extraordinary Minister for Sport.
He was the leading goal scorer in his first season at the Brazilian club Santos FC. Such an accomplishment was too good to be overlooked by the Brazilian national team coaches, who immediately invited the teenager to the national team.
Pelé is Santos FC all-time leading goal scorer. The soccer legend scored a staggering 504 goals in 496 appearances. He won several honors with the club, including two successive Copa Libertadores (in 1962 and 1963) and two Intercontinental Cups (in 1962 and 1963).
Pelé is Brazil’s all-time leading goal scorer (as of 2021). The Santos FC legend scored an astonishing 77 goals in 92 appearances for the Seleção Brasileira de Futebol (the Brazilian national football team).
He tied the knot three times: Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi (m. 1966–1982); Assíria Lemos Seixas (m. 1994–2008); and Marcia Aoki (m. 2016). Between 1981 and 1986, Pelé was romantically involved with Xuxa Meneghel, a Brazilian TV host, model, singer and businesswoman.
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