Euro 2020 Special

Sporting World Mourns Death of Pelé

The sporting world is mourning after it was announced that Pelé, the man considered by many to be the greatest footballer of all time has died at the age of 82 from colon cancer. He had been ill for some time.

He will forever be synonymous with his achievements with Brazil, for whom he won three World Cups, and for his goalscoring record. He also played a key role in popularising the sport in North America.


Child prodigy

Born to a poor family, Pelé began playing as a boy for local club Bauru FC, where he was mentored by former Brazilian international Waldemar de Brito. He was soon spotted by representatives from some of the major clubs in Brazil, but chose to join Santos, the team for whom de Brito used to play.

He was to spend almost his entire domestic career with them.

At the age of just 15, he made his debut in a win against Corinthians, and marked the occasion by scoring, the first of more than 1,000 career goals.


Domestic honours

With Santos, Pelé won the Copa Libertadores in both 1962 and 1963, and arguably they won have won it more often, had they not decided instead to concentrate on lucrative overseas touring, with Pelé as their main attraction, becoming the footballing equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters.



It was almost inevitable that Pelé would be chosen to represent Brazil sooner rather than later, and he was given his first cap aged 16 years and 9 months playing against Argentina and scored.

He would go on to score 77 goals in 92 appearances for his country, a record that Neymar recently broke at the World Cup in Qatar.

The following year he was part of the Brazil squad that travelled to Sweden for the World Cup, and they returned home with the trophy for the first time, with Pelé scoring twice in the final against the hosts.

Four years later he was part of the squad that defended their trophy in Chile, although he did not feature in the latter stages of the tournament, after he was injured during one of the group games.

Injury again deprived England fans of seeing him in action in 1966, but, having retired from international football, he was coaxed back for the 1970 finals in Brazil, and became part of one of the best teams that the competition has ever seen.

He scored the first goal in the final against Italy, a trademark downward header after a cross from the left.

One of the reasons why he was almost universally loved, is the spirit with which he played the game, epitomised by his shirtless embrace with England captain Bobby Moore after the group match between the two countries during that tournament.

It is why many people rate him higher than Maradona, because he did not have the dark side that the Argentine possessed.

Pelé became renowned during that World Cup win for several magic moments, apart from his goals, including an outrageous dummy against the Uruguay goalkeeper in their semi-final match, and an audacious attempt to score against Czechoslovakia from the halfway line that just missed.


New York Cosmos

When the North American Soccer League was formed in an attempt to popularise the game in the United States, Pelé was one of the high profile stars recruited to bring some glamour to the new competition, joining the New York Cosmos.

He helped bring instant credibility to the league, and his name alone was enough for the Cosmos to play in sell-out crowds, He also helped them win the title in his third and final season with them.


Movie Star

After he was finished with football, Pelé appeared in a Hollywood film, Escape to Victory, along with Sylvester Stallone and a number of former players.


Other post football roles

Pelé had a number of prominent roles after football, acting as a global ambassador for the sport, and he also worked closely with UNICEF, as well as briefly holding a post in the Brazilian government.

Wherever he went he was universally acclaimed, and was in constant demand around the world until his health began to fail.


The goals

Pelé himself claimed to have scored 1,283 goals in his career, although the Guinness Book of Records has the figure slightly lower at 1,279.

Officially FIFA have the statistics as much lower, because many of the goals he scored came in exhibition matches and friendlies that do not count towards the overall record.

That is one for the statisticians to argue over, because his status as one of the best ever is indisputable, and he leaves so many glorious memories behind him.




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