Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known as Pelé, is a Brazilian retired professional footballer who played as a forward. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time.
In 1999, he was voted World Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS), and was one of the two joint winners of the FIFA Player of the Century award.
That same year, Pelé was elected Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee. According to the IFFHS, Pelé is the most successful domestic league goal-scorer in football history scoring 650 goals in 694 League matches, and in total 1281 goals in 1363 games, which included unofficial friendlies and is a Guinness World Record.
During his playing days, Pelé was for a period the best-paid athlete in the world.
- Full name: Edson Arantes do Nascimento
- Profession: Former Brazilian footballer
- Born: 23 October 1940 (age 79 years), Três Corações, State of Minas Gerais, Brazil
- Full name: Edson Arantes do Nascimento
- Height: 1.73 m
- Children: Edinho, Sandra Regina Arantes do Nascimento, MORE
- Spouse: Marcia Aoki (m. 2016), Assíria Nascimento (m. 1994–2008), Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi (m. 1966–1978)
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Pelé was born on 23 October 1940 in Três Corações, Minas Gerais, Brazil. He is the son of Fluminense footballer Dondinho (born João Ramos do Nascimento) and Celeste Arantes.
He was the elder of two siblings. He was named after the American inventor Thomas Edison. His parents decided to remove the “i” and call him “Edson”, but there was a mistake on the birth certificate, leading many documents to show his name as “Edison”, not “Edson”, as he is called.
He was originally nicknamed “Dico” by his family. He received the nickname “Pelé” during his school days, when it is claimed he was given it because of his pronunciation of the name of his favorite player, local Vasco da Gama goalkeeper Bilé, which he misspoke but the more he complained the more it stuck.
In his autobiography, Pelé stated he had no idea what the name means, nor did his old friends. Apart from the assertion that the name is derived from that of Bilé, and that it is Hebrew for “miracle” (פֶּ֫לֶא), the word has no known meaning in Portuguese.
Pelé grew up in poverty in Bauru in the state of São Paulo. He earned extra money by working in tea shops as a servant.
Taught to play by his father, he could not afford a proper football and usually played with either a sock stuffed with newspaper and tied with a string or a grapefruit.
He played for several amateur teams in his youth, including Sete de Setembro, Canto do Rio, São Paulinho, and Amériquinha.
Pelé led Bauru Athletic Club juniors (coached by Waldemar de Brito) to two São Paulo state youth championships. In his mid-teens, he played for an indoor football team called Radium.
Indoor football had just become popular in Bauru when Pelé began playing it. He was part of the first Futebol de Salão (indoor football) competition in the region. Pelé and his team won the first championship and several others.
According to Pelé, indoor football presented difficult challenges; he said it was a lot quicker than football on the grass and that players were required to think faster because everyone is close to each other in the pitch.
Pelé accredits indoor football for helping him think better on the spot. In addition, indoor football allowed him to play with adults when he was about 14 years old.
In one of the tournaments he participated, he was initially considered too young to play, but eventually went on to end up top scorer with fourteen or fifteen goals. “That gave me a lot of confidence”, Pelé said, “I knew then not to be afraid of whatever might come”.
Pelé began playing for Santos at age 15 and the Brazil national team at 16. During his international career, he won three FIFA World Cups: 1958, 1962 and 1970, being the only player ever to do so. Pelé is the all-time leading goalscorer for Brazil with 77 goals in 92 games.
At club level he is the record goalscorer for Santos, and led them to the 1962 and 1963 Copa Libertadores. Known for connecting the phrase “The Beautiful Game” with football, Pelé’s “electrifying play and penchant for spectacular goals” made him a star around the world, and his teams toured internationally in order to take full advantage of his popularity.
Since retiring in 1977, Pelé has been a worldwide ambassador for football and has made many acting and commercial ventures. In 2010, he was named the Honorary President of the New York Cosmos.
Averaging almost a goal per game throughout his career, Pelé was adept at striking the ball with either foot in addition to anticipating his opponents’ movements on the field.
While predominantly a striker, he could also drop deep and take on a playmaking role, providing assists with his vision and passing ability, and he would also use his dribbling skills to go past opponents.
In Brazil, he is hailed as a national hero for his accomplishments in football and for his outspoken support of policies that improve the social conditions of the poor.
Throughout his career and in his retirement, Pelé received several individual and team awards for his performance in the field, his record-breaking achievements, and legacy in the sport.