Pelé (1940–)

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Pelé (1940–)

Pelé (Edson Arantes do Nascimento; b. 23 October 1940), Brazilian soccer player. Born in Dico (now Três Corações), Minas Gerais, Pelé grew up mainly in Bauru, São Paulo, where, inspired by the soccer skills of his father, João Ramos do Nascimento (Dondinho), he excelled at versions of street soccer, peladas, thus acquiring his future nickname. He played his first professional game with the Santos Football Club on 7 September 1956. The following year he became a member of the Brazilian national team, and in 1958 scored six goals in helping Brazil win its first World Cup. Although Brazil retained its title in 1962, Pelé was hurt and contributed little. In 1966 injuries kept Brazil from reaching the second round, but in his last World Cup (Mexico, 1970) Pelé led a creative team to permanent possession of the Jules Rimet Trophy. Scoring some 1,300 career goals, Pelé also played on clubs that won state and national championships, the Copa Libertadores de América, and the world interclub competition. His style was often more impressive than his numbers.

In 1974 Pelé retired from the Santos club, then surprised the world by joining the New York Cosmos (1975–1977) of the fledgling North American Soccer League. Despite the league's eventual demise, Pelé gained popularity in the United States and inspired a younger generation to try his sport. After leaving competition, Pelé worked in films, music, public relations, journalism, and volunteer coaching. He also coauthored a mystery novel and several pieces about his life and soccer. Through an emotional divorce, temporary economic setbacks, and criticism for failing to denounce Brazil's military regimes, Pelé retained his outward optimism and charm. A unique talent who epitomized the culture and aspirations of his countrymen, "the king" remains for most the world's best soccer player ever and a national hero. Since his retirement he has been an ambassador for football and has also undertaken acting and commercial ventures.

See alsoSports .


François Thébaud, Pelé, translated by Leo Weinstein (1976).

Joe Marcus, The World of Pelé (1976).

Pelé and Robert L. Fish, Pelé: My Life and the Beautiful Game (1978).

Joel Millman, "Pelé," in Sport 77 (December 1986): 120-123.

Additional Bibliography

Jenkins, Garry, Pedro Redig, and Antonio Pires Soares. The Beautiful Team. London: Pocket Books, 1999.

                                      Joseph L. Arbena