Edson Arantes "Pelé" Nascimento

Born: 23 October, 1940. Tres Coracoes, Brazil

International Caps :   92 
International Goals :    77 
Teams :  Santos,  New York Cosmos 
Team Honours  World Cup :  1958, 62, 70
World Club Championship :   1962, 63
Sao Paulo State Championship :  1956, 58, 60, 61, 62, 64, 56, 67, 68 
Individual Honours  :  South American Player of the Year  1973 

I was born for soccer, just as  Beethoven  was  born  for music. " Arrogant, pompous  words.  Except  when  they  are  spoken  by  Edson  Arantes  do Nascimento, the Brazilian genius known throughout the football world as Pele.
A veteran of four World Cups, scorer of  1,283  first-class goals  - 12  of  them in World Cup  final tournaments - a  member of those  magical  Brazilian  squads that won soccer's greatest prize in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

But just as a collection of notes do not make a  Beethoven symphony, statistics cannot capture the majesty of those glorious  Brazilian sides. This was football played to a samba beat. Beautiful  skills, astonishing  speed  and  ball  control - and of all those great players  in  the  yellow  and  green  shirts, Pele was the greatest of them all.

He was lithe, agile, strong  and  seemed  to  be able to make the ball do as he pleased. Blessed  with  a  stunning shot and an ability to soar above defences, he was expected to perform  some  astonishing  feat  of  trickery every time he was in possession.

And  Brazil  played  such  adventurous  football,  always  attacking,  constantly looking  to  score. Who  can  forget  the  rythmic  chanting  of  their  deliriously happy supporters? "Bra-zil, cha cha cha, Bra-zil, cha cha cha."

It was the 1962  World Cup in  Chile when those chants were heard for the first time in Europe  on  TV  and  British  fans  were quick to copy. First club names were shouted out, followed by a burst of clapping. Soon  the  strains of "ee-ay-addeo" echoed round Football League grounds.

Three  decades on, the  chants  may  be  different. But it was the Brazil of Pele which gave them to the world.

Pele was born in the poor  district  of  Tres Coracoes in 1940. His father, known as Dondhino, was a footballer too, but an undistinguished one.
Pele  was  in  love with football from the time he learned to kick a ball. But his mother was not so keen. Dondhino earned little money from the game and she wanted  something  better  for  her  son. Had  she  got  her way, football would have been denied one of its greatest talents.

Pele's  precocious  skill  came  to  the  attention of de Brito, a former Brazilian international  who  began  to  coach him. In  1954,  aged  14, he  joined  Bauru Athletic Club  juniors  in  Sao Paulo. At 16, despite a knee  injury which was to trouble him throughout his career, he  moved  to  Santos  where  he remained until 1974.
Together, Pele  and  Santos  were  to  become  legends,  touring  Europe  and playing  friendly  matches.  One  of  the  British  sides  to  entertain  them  was Sheffield Wednesday. As late as 1972, Pele turned out in his club's famous  all-white strip to play one half in a goodwill visit to Hillsborough.

It was the  World Cup  of  1958  in  Sweden  which  was  to create the stage for Pele's genius. He was  17 and  had  won  his  first  cap  the  previous  year. He arrived  in  Sweden  with  an  injury  and was held back until Brazil's third and final group match against the Soviet Union in Gothenburg.
Brazil won 2-0, Pele hit the post, laid on  the  second  goal  for Vava and a star had been born. The  quarter-final  was against Wales. Brazil only won 1-0. The scorer was Pele, his shot deflecting  off  Stuart Williams. It was  his  first World Cup goal - and he was to score six in a sequence  of  three  games by the time the final was over.
A  hat-trick  against France in the semi-final was followed by two goals against Sweden in the final. One of them, a breathtaking effort, was  described  by the football authority Brian Glanville in his book, The Story of the World Cup.
" Catching  a  high  ball  in the  thick of the  penalty area on his thigh, "  wrote Glanville, " he hooked it over his head, whirled  round  and  volleyed  mightily past Svensson." Pele also hit the post as the Swedes went down  5-2 in front of their  home  crowd. Brazil  had  won  the  World Cup  for  the  first  time  and a teenage prodigy was on his way to international fame and fortune.

By  1962  Brazil  were  the  undisputed kings of football and Pele was rated the best  player  in  the  world. He  was  just  21. But  the  Chile  finals  were to  be shortlived for him as Brazil sought to retain their crown.

Their  opening  match   was  against  Mexico. Brazil  won  2-0, Pele  scoring  a brilliant  goal  in  which  he  beat  four  men  before  putting  the  ball  past the keeper. But  in  the  next  game, a  0-0  draw with  Czechoslovakia, Pele tore a thigh  muscle  which  put  him  out  of  the  tournament. Brazil became double world champions, beating Czechoslovakia 3-1 in the final. But if  1962 was bad for  Pele, 1966  was  worse. This  time  for  him  and  his  country. The  year  of England's  greatest football triumph saw Brazil lose their first World Cup match for  12  years and then they crashed out of the  tournament in the first round as Pele was literally kicked off the park by the butchers of Portugal.

Brazil played just three games in the 1966  World Cup, all of them at  Everton's Goodison Park. They  got  off  to  a  reasonable start beating Bulgaria 2-0, Pele scoring  from  a  free  kick. But in the second game, with Pele missing through injury, they  were  given  a  football  lesson by the mighty Magyars of Hungary, going down 3-1.

Pele was back for the crucial tie with Portugal, but it was soon obvious he was far from full fitness. Brazil had made seven  changes after that shock defeat by Hungary, but  it  made  no  difference as  Portugal  quickly let it be known they were  taking  no  prisoners.  Morais  cynically  chopped   down  Pele  in  brutal fashion and was  amazingly  allowed  to  stay  on  the  pitch by English referee George   McCabe.  Pele  was  forced  off  and,  though  Brazil  were  merely  a shadow  of  the  sides that had ruled the world, football won few friends by the manner of Portugal's 3-1 victory.

Pele  vowed  never  to  appear  in  another  World  Cup,  but  by  1970  he  had changed his mind. This  time  the  tournament  was  held in sunny Mexico and this Brazilian team was probably the greatest of them all.

Pele, the boy who had  played alongside  Zito and Garrincha, the  young  man who had traded passes with Amarildo and Didi, was now a 29-year-old veteran lining-up  in  an  attack  that  included  Rivelino, Tostao and the  incomparable Jairzinho.

And  in  the  heat  of  Guadalajara  he  was  to  take  part  in  one  of  the finest World  Cup  matches  - the  clash  of  champions  against  World  Cup  holders England.
Brazil's  opening  match  was  against Czechoslovakia who they tore apart 4-1. However, playing  fabulous attacking football, Brazil  left  themselves open at the back and  went  a goal down. They soon equalised through a scintillating, swerving free kick from Rivelino. After that, it was one-way traffic, Pele getting the second and Jairzinho the last two.
Now it was England's turn. And what a match it was. This  England  team  was regarded by many as  technically  superior to the side that had won the World Cup at Wembley in 1966. Alan  Mullery  was  deputed  to  mark  Pele and did a terrific  job. But  how  do  you  mark  genius? By  the  tenth  minute, Pele  was stealing in at the far post, towering  above  England's  defence  to  drive  down a Jairzinho cross with a ferocious header.
If  ever a goal  looked  a  certainty, this  was  it. As  the ball screamed towards its  destination  inside  the  post, somehow, miraculously, Gordon  Banks  got a hand to it and flicked it up over the bar.
The save of  the  century ?   Probably. Pele could      only  stand   and   stare    in amazement-along with several million incredulous TV viewers around the world.

The game, often  branded  the  "real"  final, was a  classic. England  defended brilliantly, Alan  Ball  hit the bar, but a Jairzinho goal - laid on by who else but Pele - was enough to give Brazil a 1-0 victory.

Afterwards, a picture  of  one  of  the  great moments of sportsmanship flashed round the world. It was  of  Pele  and England's captain Bobby Moore, stripped to the waist, swapping  shirts and embracing each other, both recognising that the other was a master of his trade. Pele  scored  twice  in  Brazil's final group match  in  a  3-2  defeat  of Romania  before  they  disposed  of  Peru  4-2  and Uruguay 3-1 to reach the final.
Brazil's  opponents  were  Italy  and, as  both  teams  had  won  the World Cup twice, it meant the victors would keep the Jules Rimet Trophy permanently.
Pele, in his World Cup swansong, scored with a spectacular header and made two other goals as  Brazil, playing  football  which seemed on another level to anything the game had seen before, crushed Italy 4-1.

Brazil  had  become  the  first  nation  to  win  a  hat-trick  of  World Cups. Pele retired from  international  football  soon  afterwards, but continued to play for Santos for a further four years. When he finally called it a day at the age of 34, Santos  marked his passing by removing  the  No.10  shirt from their  line-up. It was an admission that no-one could compare with The Master.

Then, in  1975, Pele surprised everyone by coming out of retirement to play for the New  York  Cosmos   in   America's   fledgling  soccer  league.  The price probably helped - a small matter of $4.5 million.

He   stayed  for  two  years  and  in   1976   played   for  Team  America  in  the Bicentennial  Tournament  against  England. His  Yankee  team-mate  that day was none other than Bobby Moore appearing against his old colleagues!

The  end  of  a  supreme  career  finally  came  in 1977 when Pele hung up his boots for good and settled for a role as a sporting ambassador, later becoming Brazil's  Minister  for Sport. He also popped up from time to time endorsing the virtues of Pespi Cola.

But  even  now,  30  years on, such  was  his  greatness  that  whenever  Brazil are  mentioned, the  name  that  comes  first  to  football  fans' lips everywhere is Pele   . . . the one and only.

In  2000, Pelé  was named second  for  the "Sportsman of the Century"  award.The legendary Muhammad Ali got the honors.

Soccer jersey worn by Pelé sells for $224,000  in auction.
© 2005-2008. Barrie Spirit Soccer
An  average-sized  man, he was blessed with speed, great balance, tremendous vision, the ability  to  control  the  ball superbly, and the ability to   shoot powerfully  and accurately with either foot and with his head.
In   many   ways,  Pelé was  the   complete athlete. With his  skill  and agility, he  could have played in any position on the field, but he chose on wearing the number- 10 shirt as an inside - left forward. He had   great balance,  which enabled him     to     dribble effortlessly around defenders, and his heading ability was remarkable.
Wealthy European  clubs offered  massive fees   to sign the  young  player, but  the government   of Brazil  declared   Pelé an official national treasure to prevent him from being transferred out of the country.      
Pelé's   statistics  are staggering. During his career he scored 1,280 goals  in 1,360 games, second only  to another Brazilian, Arthur Friedenreich, who recorded 1,329  goals. He scored   an average of   a  goal   in  every international     game he played  --  the equivalent of   a    baseball   player's hitting a home  run  in every World  Series game over 15 years.

At    the    club    level    he shattered  records  in Brazil. He  scored   127 goals  for  Santos F.C. in 1959,   110 in 1961 and 101goals in 1965, and led the   club   to  two World Club championships.

Pelé   also  holds  the world record  for  hat tricks  (92)  and  the number  of goals scored on  the  international level (97). His statistics are all the more amazing when compared to today's  top  players  who  can  barely  score more that 30 goals in a season.   
Pelé began playing soccer for a local minor-league club when he was a teenager. When he wasn't playing soccer he shined shoes for pennies. He  was discovered at the age of 11 by   one  of  the country's premier players, Waldemar  de Brito. When Brito  brought Pelé   to Sao  Paulo   he declared to  the disbelieving directors  of the   professional team  in Santos,  "  This   boy  will be  the greatest soccer player in the world.
In December 2000, Pelé was named Footballer of the Century by FIFA.