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The Legacy Of Pele: What Did The King Of Football Mean For The Game?

The Legacy Of Pele 1

The King of Football, the Brazilian phenom, finally lost his battle with cancer and breathed his last on December 29th, 2022. Pele’s body might be gone, but his name carries a legend that will live on forever. While he was indubitably magnificent on the field, his contributions away from the football field can’t be ignored either. In this post, we will take a look at Pele’s legacy. Let’s get started.

Pele: The Legacy Of A King

In every corner of the world, from the little boy learning what football is, to the oldest, nostalgic for works of art on the number 10 shirt of the Brazilian National Team, the name Pelé means a lot. The story of the King of Football gains a new chapter today, with the farewell in life, but his legacy remains immortal in everyone’s memory, in museums, in the cinema and in the imagination of all who love the sport.

Born in Três Corações, Minas Gerais, on October 23, 1940, Pelé received all possible awards and honors, revered by fans, players, entities and celebrities, connected or not to football. Because Edson Arantes do Nascimento was bigger than the sport that shaped him. It has become a synonym for success, determination and apex.

Pele: The Legend Begins

Since he was a little boy, Edson Arantes do Nascimento was a football lover. Son of Celeste Arantes and João Ramos do Nascimento, Dondinho, also a player, Pelé kicked a cloth ball for the first time. From the streets of Minas Gerais, shortly afterward, in 1944, he began to run and practice in the city of Bauru, in São Paulo, where the family moved.

He began his career as a football player at the age of 10. He was always precocious – at Bauru Atlético Clube, where, years later, he won his first titles: two championships in 1954 and 1955.

The Patron Saint of Santos

The first contact with Santos, the club for which he would win just about everything, was in 1956, through the player Waldemar de Brito, who took him to train at the club. In a training game, Pelé scored four goals and delighted everyone. He played professionally for the first time on September 7 of the same year, in a friendly between Santos and Corinthians, when he scored two goals in the 7-1 victory. He scored twice and started his tremendous goalscoring journey.

At the age of 15, he was nicknamed by Zito and Pepe, team veterans, as  Gasolina, and thus appeared on the scoresheet. Pelé entered at halftime in that game, replacing Del Vecchio, considered the best in the squad. The Corinthians, unaware of the boy’s quality, suffered at the hands of Pele and allowed more goals.

For Santos, Pelé won 14  more known titles and another 25 tournaments abroad.

  • Two-time champion of the Libertadores Cup (1962 and 1963)
  • Two-time Interclub World Champion (1962 and 1963)
  • Silver Cup Champion (1968)
  • Five times champion of the Brazil Cup (1961, 62, 63, 64 and 65)
  • Four times champion of the Roberto Gomes Pedrosa/Rio-São Paulo Tournament (1959, 1963, 1964 and 1966)
  • 25 overseas tournament titles

Pele: The World Cup Champion Of Champions

His debut in the Brazilian national team took place on July 7, 1957, at the age of 16, against Argentina, at the Maracanã Stadium, in Rio de Janeiro. It was the so-called Copa Rocca, when he scored the first goal for the yellow shirt. Pele scored a goal and won hearts, but the Argentines won the match 2-1.

The relationship between Pelé and the number 10, however, began at the World Cup in Sweden, in 1958. Despite high expectations for the kid’s performance, he was a substitute in the first two matches and only played in the third, against the Soviet Union. He didn’t score but saw Garrincha open the scoring and then assisted Vavá. The first official goal came in the next match, against Wales, in the quarterfinals.

The final was against hosts Sweden. Brazil didn’t really care for the home field advantage and won the Final 5-2, with Pele scoring two goals. With the feat, the ace became the youngest player to win a World Cup.

Pele Wins Back to Back World Cups

At the following World Cup, in Chile, in 1962, the world already knew about Edson Arantes do Nascimento. He carried the number 10 shirt and the weight of being considered the best player on the planet. The first game was against Mexico. Zagallo scored the first goal at the beginning of the second half and Pelé scored in the 73rd minute. In the next match, however, when Brazil faced Czechoslovakia, the star suffered a muscle strain and was out for the rest of the competition. With the absence of the King, Garrincha shone and led the team to the world title.

The Only Player To Win Three World Cups

The 1966 Football World cup was full of expectations for the performances of the Brazilian team, with great players in the squad: Pelé, Garrincha, Gilmar, Djalma Santos, Jairzinho, Gérson and Tostão. And Brazil debuted with victory in the competition and won 2-0 against Bulgaria, with goals from Pelé and Garrincha. But in the following clashes, against Hungary and Portugal, Brazil couldn’t perform up to the mark and was eliminated from the tournament.

In Mexico, in 1970, the national team put on a show. Under the aegis of the new coach Zagallo, there were six matches and six wins. Pelé scored four goals and was instrumental in the Brazilian conquest, giving passes to Jairzinho, Rivellino and Carlos Alberto.

The final was against Italy. Pelé opened the scoring, with a historic header in the goal defended by Enrico Albertosi. Italy tied in the first half, with Roberto Boninsegna. Brazil broke the tie with a thundering left footed strike from Gerson from outside the box. The third came from a pass from Pelé to Jairzinho, who slammed the ball into the net. And the fourth goal, a work of art, again coming out of the King’s feet. He received the ball outside the box, noticed Carlos Alberto passing by on the right and just passed calmly. The captain arrived kicking, with no chances for the Italian defense.

Pele: The Thousand Goal Wonder

In November 2021, Pelé’s famous thousandth goal turned 52 years old. It was a feat that shook the world of football. Precisely on November 19, 1969, a busy and rainy Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro, one of the greatest players of all time went down in history for yet another feat: the thousandth goal.

There were 65,157 people present at Maracanã to see history being written. Santos faced Vasco, for the Roberto Gomes Pedrosa Tournament, considered the Brazilian Championship at the time. The goal came only in the second half of that lukewarm game. In the 34th minute, Pelé received a pass from Clodoaldo and won a penalty inside the area by defender Fernando Silva.

The world was silent as the legendary number 10 bent down to straighten his socks. The Santos players went to the center of the field. Goalkeeper Andrada, the victim, got to talk to Pelé before the kick.

The genius took three slow steps towards the ball, then quickened his run, made a slight stop and scored his thousandth goal, in the left corner of Andrada, to the general madness of the planet. This time, he didn’t do the traditional air punch. He went in search of the ball in the back of the net. In a few seconds, he was already in the arms of journalists, fans and officials. It is a bit ironic that his thousandth goal came via penalty since he had once labeled a penalty as “a cowardly way to score.”

Pele: Best Quotes

A lot of people, when a guy scores a lot of goals, think, ‘He’s a great player’ because a goal is very important, but a great player is a player who can do everything on the field. He can do assists, encourage his colleagues, and give them the confidence to go forward. It is someone who, when a team does not do well, becomes one of the leaders.

I played for Santos at 16, and we had an excellent team, so it helped a lot. And then I played for Brazil at the Maracana against Argentina. So I get more experience. This was one year before the World Cup, and it made a lot of difference

In 1962, my injury wasn’t because of violence; I just kicked the ball and it happened. And that was OK because Brazil won; I didn’t have any difficulty accepting that. I still got a medal because I’d played two games.

When I was minister of sport in Brazil, I tried to bring in a law that would make the chairmen of clubs reveal their accounts like other businesses. It was turned down, but I think it is an important story that will make a good film.

Over the years I’ve learned to live with two people in my heart. One is Edson, who has fun with his friends and family; the other is the football player Pele. I didn’t want the name. ‘Pele’ sounds like baby-talk in Portuguese.

I was really proud that I was named after Thomas Edison and wanted to be called Edson. I thought Pele sounded horrible. It was a rubbish name. Edson sounded so much more serious and important.

Everybody knows my life. I won a lot of tournaments and scored more than 1,000 goals, won three World Cups but I could not play in the Olympic Games.

You must respect people and work hard to be in shape. And I used to train very hard. When the other players went to the beach after training, I was there kicking the ball.

If I pass away one day, I will be happy because I tried to do my best. My sport allowed me to do so much because it’s the biggest sport in the world.

What caused Pele’s death? 

Pele, the King of Football, had been battling cancer for a long time. After keeping the disease at bay for some time, Pele eventually succumbed to cancer that had spread across his intestine, liver and lung.

Pele: More Than A Football Player

Pele is not only one of the greatest athletes in the history of the country and the world, but also one of the most important and most recognized Brazilian citizens on the entire planet, not needing, for example, a letter of introduction to learn about his accomplishments.

Not only in Brazil, but also around the world, Pele has the nickname of the king for being considered the greatest football player of all time, since the invention of the sport, being responsible for commanding one of the greatest football teams in history.

As the popular saying would say: whoever is a king never loses his majesty. Therefore, the King’s career and the most important moments of his trajectory deserve to be remembered forever.

How did Pele become the King of Football?

As we saw above, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, or simply Pelé is a name that needs no introduction and does not need a simple letter of introduction to be recognized. In fact, from an early age, Pelé impressed on the pitch.

To get an idea of ​​this, before being known worldwide as King, this nickname was given to him early in his career. More precisely after a game against América, in 1958, where Pelé was the outstanding player, guaranteeing victory to Santos after scoring 4 goals. Several sources say that in this game, specifically, was none other than Nelson Rodrigues, one of the most influential chroniclers and playwrights of all time. At the time, Nelson was so impressed with the talent of the eighteen-year-old that he wrote a chronicle in honor of the boy: Pelé’s royalty.

It is noteworthy that in the same year, Pelé set the absolute record of scoring 58 goals in a single edition of the Campeonato Paulista. From then on, the royalty of the 18-year-old phenomenon was already established, on the way to the 1958 World Cup.

How did Pele stop a war?

One of the most curious facts about Pelé concerns the King having managed to stop a tribal war in Africa, more specifically in Nigeria, between two ethnic groups. 

This fact occurred a few years after Pele received the nickname of King, where Pelé already had world renown as a player after being the youngest player in history to score in a world cup final, in 58.

In 1969, the Santos Football Club team traveled to Africa to participate in friendly matches in several countries on the African continent. During this trip, the government of Nigeria made a formal invitation to the club to travel to the country and play a friendly game with the Benin City club.

According to the reports from that time, the Nigerian government took steps to arrange a ceasefire that could ensure that the Santos team arrived safely at the stadium. It seems like something from another world, doesn’t it?

At the time, the Brazilian team came out with a positive result of 2-1 over the Nigerian team. It also goes without saying that the King was crowned top scorer in this friendly tournament, with 8 goals out of the 19 scored by his team in the passage through Africa.

As we all mourn the death of Pele, let us not forget to celebrate his life as well. Remember, whatever your favourite footballer does today, Pele did it first. The king is dead, long live the king!

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