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Sports - December 30, 2022

10 Things You Didn’t About Super Footballer Pele

The legendary soccer player and Brazilian ambassador, Edson Arantes do Nascimento better known as Pele died on Thursday of colon cancer. He was 82.

His doctors at a hospital in Brazil told the Associated Press last week that his cancer had progressed and that he was under “elevated care.” His agent, Joe Fraga, confirmed his death to the AP on Thursday.

Widely considered the greatest footballer ever, Pel won three World Cups with Brazil, was named a co-player of the century by FIFA, was named the world player of the century by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics, and was the leading goal-scorer in the world, according to the IFFHS.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at ten things you didn’t know about Pele.


The Greatest Player of All Time: Lionel Messi 

1. He was given the name Thomas Edison

His mother Dona Celeste and soccer player Joo Ramos gave him the name Edison in honour of Thomas Edison, as Pelé recounted in a September 2014 tweet.

According to the local of Três Coraçes, “electricity had only recently been introduced to my hometown in Brazil.”

Having been given the nickname “Dico” by his family, Pelé subsequently remarked that the nickname by which he is now widely known “actually irritated” him initially. 

“I was really proud that I was named after Thomas Edison and wanted to be called Edson,” he wrote in a 2006 Guardian piece

2. When he couldn’t buy a soccer ball or sneakers, he used his creativity

When his family couldn’t afford to buy him a real soccer ball when he was a child because of his family’s financial situation, Pelé trained his dribbling talents with a sock filled with rags.

He began shining shoes and selling roasted peanuts outside movie theatres to pay for a soccer ball when his family relocated to a bigger town in southern Brazil when he was six years old.

He frequently played barefoot since he couldn’t afford shoes, and he and his buddies eventually started a group known as the Shoeless Ones.

Pelé is thought to have been the inspiration for the word “pelada,” which was later given to barefoot activities played on empty lots.

3. His first contract was very lucrative

In 1956, when he was barely 15 years old and making only $10 per month, Pelé signed his first deal with Santos. ESPN claims that despite the fact that their community had the infrastructure to pipe gas into homes, he used his money to purchase his mother a gas stove.

Later on, in 1975, he agreed to a three-year, $7 million contract with the New York Cosmos, becoming the highest-paid team athlete in the world at the time.

However, according to the New York Times, the original Brazilian paid $2 million in taxes out of the total purchase. 

According to the newspaper, Cosmos vice president and general manager Clive Toye stated in 1975, “He will pay his own taxes, just like every American.”

4. He has two Guinness World Records

By the end of his playing career, Pelé had amassed the most victories of any player with three FIFA World Cup victories with Brazil (in 1958, 1962, and 1970).

Of course, that’s just one of the numerous records he set while playing soccer.

The four goals Pelé scored in his 1956 professional debut only served as a springboard for the 1,283 goals he would eventually score throughout the course of his career.

Guinness’ overall total, however, is in question since, according to several publications, he scored more than 500 of those goals in “unofficial friendlies and tour games” rather than in professional competition.

5. He literally is a national treasure of Brazil

European teams including Real Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan, and Manchester United started pursuing Pelé when he led Brazil’s national side to their first World Cup victory in 1958.

Pelé was eventually proclaimed a national treasure in 1961 by Brazilian President Jânio Quadros in an effort to stop him from being moved to foreign teams.

“Well, first of all, I consider it an honour. But I pay income tax like everyone else,” he quipped in 2016 to Esquire.

6. He temporarily stopped a war in Nigeria

In a 1999 Time story, Kissinger recalled that in 1967, both sides in Nigeria’s civil war requested a 48-hour truce so Pelé could play an exhibition game in the nation’s capital, Lagos. 

The military governor of the area, Samuel Ogbemudia, is credited with announcing a holiday and opening a bridge so that both sides could watch Pelé’s 2-1 triumph over Nigeria, according to the Santos website.

“We were asked to play a friendly match on Benin City, in the middle of a Civil War, but Santos was so beloved that they agreed on a ceasefire on the matchday. It became known as the day that ‘Santos stopped the war,’” Pelé tweeted in 2020.

7. He was persuaded to perform in America by Henry Kissinger

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger visited Sao Paulo to persuade Pelé to play again with the New York Cosmos in 1974 after he left the Brazilian national team and Santos.

“He invited me to go to the cafe with him, and there he said, ‘Listen. You know I’m from the United States, and I’m in politics there.

Soccer is coming along there-they’re playing it in the schools. Would you like to help us promote soccer in the United States?” 

In 2016, Pelé recalled the incident to Esquire. At the time, he couldn’t speak English. I responded, “My God.”

Kissinger reportedly wrote him a telegram before he agreed to a reported $7 million, three-year contract with the New York Cosmos, which read:

“Should you decide to sign a contract, I am sure your stay in the United States will substantially contribute to closer ties between Brazil and the United States in the field of sports.”

8. He and Nelson Mandela were close friends

To participate in the “90 Minutes for Mandela” charity game in 2007 in celebration of the 89th birthday of the president of South Africa, Pelé skipped a family vacation. 

Pelé gave Mandela an autographed jersey during a joint news conference, which the latter referred to as a “priceless present” that he would cherish for the rest of his life.

Following Mandela’s passing in 2013, Pelé tweeted, “He was my hero, my friend, and also a partner to me in our battle for the people and for world peace.” Pelé also referred to Mandela as “one of the most influential persons” in his life.

9. The monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, knighted him

Pelé received the honorary title of Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE) in 1997 despite not being of British ancestry because of his activism and humanitarian activities.

Starting in 1994, Pelé worked for UNICEF as a Goodwill Ambassador and as the organisation’s Champion for Sport. During this time, he developed programmes such Children in Need in 1996 and Match of the Hearth in 2000.

He tweeted after receiving an honorary knighthood in 2020, “It will always be in my mind.” “I am grateful for the love of the British people in general.”

10. His final professional game saw him play for both teams

At an exhibition game between the New York Cosmos and Santos F.C. in October 1977, Pelé played his last professional game in front of 77,000 people, including Muhammad Ali, at New Jersey’s Giants Stadium.

He scored one goal while playing for Santos in the first half of the match before changing into a Cosmos jersey for the second. The final score of the game was 2-1 in favour of the Cosmos.


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