One of the all time greats of the game of football (soccer to our American readers) if not the greatest is of course Pele. Pele, born Edison (though he prefers Edson) Arantes do Nascimento on Oct. 23, 1940 in Brazil is nothing short of a legend in the sport. Even those who have never in their life watched a football match know his name.
The game seems nearly inconceivable without him. Pele is a man who seems to have been born to play football. His ball control and speed were both unparalleled; particularly his one of a kind passing skills. Fans serious and casual alike relished every opportunity to watch Pele. It seemed that miraculous plays were in store every time Pele had the ball. In his career, Pele scored 1,283 goals, 12 during World Cup tournaments (in 1958, 1968 and 1970). At the time, Pele was the only player to ever win three World Cup trophies.
Pele was discovered and nurtured by Waldemar de Brito, who began coaching him in 1954. In a mere two years, he began playing professionally and by 1957, Pele was in a starting position on Santos. The same year, Pele won a World Cup – by 1962, he was fielding (and considering) offers from European clubs. The Brazilian government, fearing that Pele would leave for greener pastures, declared him a national treasure, which effectively prevented him from going to a team outside of the country.
Pele continued playing for Santos until the end of his 17th season in 1972. He retired from football but would occasionally suit up during competitive matches. At the start of the 1975 season, he came out of this semi-retirement to play for the New York Cosmos who were part of the North American soccer League. Although many considered him to be past his prime, Pele was responsible for greatly increasing the interest and public awareness of soccer in the United States. In his third and last season with the Cosmos, he led the team to win the 1977 NASL championship.
In his homeland of Brazil, he is still regarded a national hero. He is well known for his contributions and accomplishments to football and was declared the football ambassador of the world by FIFA. He vocally supports policies that will improve the conditions of the less privileged. During his legendary career, he earned the title \”The King of Football\”. His is a member of the American National Soccer Hall of Fame.