Edson Arantes do Nascimento—better known as Pelé—is the most celebrated football player in history and perhaps the most popular athlete the world has ever known.
History and Background
Pelé was born on Oct. 23, 1940 to Dondinho and Dona Celeste in Três Corações (in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil).
Pelé's father was a local professional football player who held the distinction of scoring five goals with his head in one game. As a kid, Pelé created his own reputation as a player in the city of Bauru. Former Brazilian World Cup player, Waldemar de Brito, noticed his skills and took him to Santos, a club team on the coast of Brazil. He began his professional career at the age of 16 for Santos Futebol Clube, scoring one goal in his first official game. Shortly afterwards, he joined the Brazilian national team.
In 1958, the 17-year-old was selected to play for the Seleção at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. Pelé missed the first two games of the tournament due to a knee injury, but he soon made up for lost time by scoring the game-winning goal in the quarterfinals and a hat-trick in the semifinals. After Pelé's two goals against Sweden in the final, his teammates lifted the child prodigy onto their shoulders and hoisted their country's first Jules Rimet Trophy.
The 1958 World Cup revealed to the public the greatness of Pelé. He became the youngest ever winner of a World Cup tournament and the youngest scorer in a World Cup Final. He later led Brazil to two more World Cup titles, in 1962 (Chile) and 1970 (Mexico).
In 1975, after 18 years with Santos FC, he joined the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League (NASL). During his three years in New York, Pelé lead the Cosmos to the 1977 NASL title and brought great excitement and inspiration to young football players in the United States. He capped off his career with an emotional farewell game on October 1, 1977 in a sold-out Giants Stadium, playing the first half with the Cosmos and the second half for Santos.
Since his retirement from football, Pelé continues to make contributions to the game and travels the world to interact with his fans. Named one of the 'Top 20 Most Important People of the 20th Century' (Time Magazine) and 'Football Player of the Century' (FIFA), Pelé maintains his commitment to sport and society by acting as spokesperson, ambassador and philanthropist. In 2014, he was awarded the first ever FIFA Ballon d’Or Prix d’Honneur in recognition of his dazzling career and achievements.
Pelés career saw him score 1,283 goals in 1,366 matches.He remains the only football player to have won three World Cup tournaments and is the top scorer in the history of the Brazil National team, with 77 goals.