The Footballing Legend

7 min read

Pele, a name that resonated with the glory of Brazilian football, the magic of the beautiful game, and an unrivaled legacy, stood as one of the greatest footballers in history. From his humble beginnings in Brazil to his unparalleled success on the international stage, Pele's journey was a testament to talent, dedication, and a love for the sport that transcended generations. In this comprehensive article, we delve into the life, achievements, and enduring impact of the footballing icon known simply as Pele.

Image Source: El Gráfico, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Pele Footballing Icon

Early Life

Edson Arantes do Nascimento, famously known as Pele, was born on October 23, 1940, in Três Corações, Brazil. Raised in poverty, Pele discovered his passion for football at a young age, honing his skills by playing barefoot with makeshift balls on the streets of Bauru. His innate talent caught the attention of local coaches, who recognized his potential and encouraged him to pursue a career in the sport. 

From the streets of Bauru to the youth teams of Santos FC, Pele's journey to footballing stardom was marked by determination,
perseverance, and unwavering support from his family. His father, Dondinho, himself a former professional footballer, provided guidance and inspiration, instilling in Pele the values of hard work and discipline that would define his illustrious career.

Youth Career and Rise to Prominence

Pele's prodigious talent was evident from a young
age, and he quickly rose through the ranks of Santos FC's youth system, making his professional debut for the club at the age of 15. His electrifying performances and goal-scoring prowess soon catapulted him to national prominence, earning him a call-up to the Brazilian national team at the age of
just 16. 

At the 1958 FIFA World Cup in Sweden, Pele announced himself to the world with a series of dazzling displays that showcased his extraordinary skill, agility, and instinctive goal-scoring ability. He became the youngest player to ever score in a World Cup final, helping Brazil clinch their first-ever title and cementing his status as a rising star on the global stage. The 17-year-old broke down with emotions, on the shoulder of goalkeeper Gilmar, after Brazil won.

pele 1958 world cup final winners
Achievements & Career Highlights

Pele's illustrious career was adorned with numerous achievements and accolades, solidifying his status as one of the greatest footballers of all time:  

  • Three-time FIFA World Cup Champion (1958, 1962, 1970)
  • FIFA World Cup Golden Ball winner (1970)
  • FIFA World Cup Golden Boot winner (1958, 1970)
  • Santos FC's all-time leading goal scorer
  • Winner of multiple Campeonato Brasileiro Série A titles with Santos FC
  • Inducted into the Brazilian Football Museum Hall of Fame

Image Source: El Gráfico #2646, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Club Playing Career Timeline

1956 - 1974: Santos FC

Pele spent the majority of his club career at Santos FC, where he enjoyed unparalleled success and became a national hero in Brazil. During his time at the club, he won numerous domestic and international titles, including the prestigious Copa Libertadores.

1975 - 1977: New York Cosmos

In a groundbreaking move that helped popularize football in the United States, Pele joined the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League (NASL). His arrival in the US sparked a surge in interest in the sport and played a significant role in the growth of soccer in the country.

Pele's last game was played on the 28th of August 1977 where the New York Cosmos won the match and the world said their farewells to a sporting legend. After which the number 10 shirt was retired in his honour.


Pele's distinguished career was not without its controversies, although they were relatively few compared to his on-field triumphs: 

Political Allegations: Throughout his career, Pele faced criticism for his erceived reluctance to take a stand on political issues, particularly during Brazil's military dictatorship. Some critics argued that his silence amounted to tacit support for the regime, while others defended his right to remain apolitical.

Financial Disputes: Pele's post-retirement years were marred by legal battles and financial disputes, including allegations of unpaid taxes and breach of contract. While these controversies tarnished his reputation to some extent, they did little to diminish his status as a footballing icon.

Successes Off the Pitch

Beyond his achievements on the football field, Pele's influence extended to various endeavors off the pitch: 

Philanthropy: Pele was actively involved in charitable work throughout his life, supporting causes related to children's
health, education, and poverty alleviation. He used his celebrity status to raise awareness and funds for numerous charitable organizations, demonstrating a commitment to making a positive impact on society. 

Ambassadorship: Pele served as a global ambassador for football, representing the sport and promoting its values around the world. He worked with organizations such as FIFA, UNICEF, and the International Olympic Committee to promote peace, unity, and social development through sport. 

Business Ventures: Pele was involved in various business ventures, including endorsements, investments, and entrepreneurial
ventures. He lent his name to a range of products and brands, from sports equipment to clothing lines, capitalizing on his enduring popularity and brand appeal. 

Media and Entertainment: Pele ventured into the world of media and entertainment, appearing in films, television shows, and commercials. He authored books, autobiographies, and memoirs, sharing his insights and experiences with fans around the world.

Pele - Fun Facts

Youngest World Cup Winner: Pele became the youngest player ever to win a FIFA World Cup when he lifted the trophy with Brazil at the age of 17 in 1958. 

Three-Time World Cup Champion: Pele is the only player in history to have won the FIFA World Cup three times, achieving this feat with Brazil in 1958, 1962, and 1970. 

Nickname Origin: The name "Pele" is actually a nickname. He was originally named Edson Arantes do Nascimento, but he got the nickname from his friends who misspelled the name of a famous goalkeeper named Bile (pronounced "Pile") as "Pele," and it stuck. 

Prolific Scorer: Pele scored an incredible 1,281 goals in 1,363 games over the course of his professional career, making him one of the most prolific goal scorers in history. 

Hat-Trick Debut: Pele scored a hat-trick in his debut match for Santos FC at the age of just 15. 

International Goal Scoring Record: Pele is Brazil's all-time leading goal scorer with 77 goals in 92 appearances for the national team. 

Ambassador for Peace: Pele has been named a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and has been involved in various initiatives promoting peace and social justice around the world. 

Honorary Knighthood: In 1997, Pele was awarded an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to football. 

Statue at Maracanã Stadium: A statue of Pele was erected at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to honour his contributions to the sport.

Olympic Torchbearer: Pele had the honour of being a torchbearer for the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

Music Career: Pele released a successful music album in 2006 titled "Pele Ginga," featuring collaborations with
various artists. 

Actor: Pele has appeared in several films and tv shows throughout his career, showcasing his talents beyond the football pitch.


Pele passed away at the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo following a battle with cancer. His death marked the end of an era in football, leaving behind a legacy that will forever be remembered and celebrated by fans around the world. As the footballing community mourns his loss, Pele's extraordinary talent, sportsmanship, and humility will continue to inspire generations of football fans and aspiring athletes, ensuring that his legacy lives on for years to come.

Santos, Brazil

3rd Jan, 2023

The streets were lined with people as Pele's coffin, draped in the Brazilian flag and the flag of Santos FC, preceded to his final resting place.

Image Source: Alamy Photos