One interesting thing about football (soccer) is that in every generation and dispensation, there are amazing players who put up terrific games and make the headlines. In recent times, we have the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, etc, making the headlines. However, in the past, names like Diego Maradona, and Edson Arantes do Nascimento, popularly known in the world as Pele, dominated the headlines. Though it has been several decades since the soccer legends retired from professional football, they have continued to make the headlines from time to time with their names always entering many lists of greatest football players of all times.
While they are the reigning kings of soccer at the moment, this article is neither about Ronaldo or Messi but about Pele (Edson Arantes do Nascimento). How well do you know this fantastic player who recorded wonderful stats during his heydays? In case you were born decades after he stopped playing soccer and know little or nothing about him, below are seven interesting facts about this great player of all time that will thrill you.
Pele was born in Três Corações, Minas Gerais, Brazil, on the 23rd of October 1940 as Edson Arantes do Nascimento. His father, João Ramos do Nascimento (Dondinho), was also a well-known soccer star who played for Brazilian football club Fluminense during his time. His mother’s name was Celeste Arantes and he had two older siblings.
Edson grew up in Bauru city of São Paulo. Due to the poor living condition of his family, he had to work in tea shops as a servant to earn extra money to support himself.
His journey into fame began in the state of São Paulo (Bauru to be precise) when his father taught him to play soccer and since he could not afford a football at the time, he made one out of a sock stuffed with newspaper and tied with a string. His playing skills were exceptional; he would later play for many amateur teams, including Amériquinha, São Paulinho, Canto do Rio, Sete de Setembro, and Bauru Athletic Club juniors which he led to São Paulo state youth championships twice.
During his mid-teens, he played indoor football for a team called Radium. At that same time, indoor football just began gaining popularity in Bauru and Pele, who loved the game of football, took part in the first Futebol de Salão (indoor football) competition in the region and his team won the first championship and several others.
His breakthrough came in 1956 when he signed a contract with Santos FC. In his first game for the team which ended in a 7-1 win, Pele scored the first goal that set the game on course. By the next season, he became the highest goal scorer in the team and was promoted to the national team. After playing at the 1958 and 1962 World Cup tournaments, big clubs like Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Juventus began seeking to sign him, all to no avail.
Inter Milian did succeed to get him to sign a pre-contract in 1958 but Italian oil tycoon, Angelo Moratti, tore it up following an attack on the chairman of Santos by a Brazilian fan. He led Santos to 1962 and 1963 Copa Libertadores and remains the club’s highest goalscorer to date.
After spending nineteen seasons with the Brazilian club, he retired from the team in 1974 but continued to play with them only during competitive matches. Two years into his partial retirement, he signed a deal with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League (NASL) and it is on record that his involvement with the team increased public awareness and interest of the sport in the US. He was with the club for three seasons. In his final season with the team, he led them to the 1977 NASL championship.
He also played in the South American Championship. In the 1958 championship, Pele was named the best player in the competition after scoring a total of eight goals during the tournament.
He won three FIFA World Cup trophies with the Brazilian National Team (1958, 1962 and 1970), being the only player in history to ever to do so. In the 1958 FIFA World Cup Final Match, Pele became the youngest player to ever play in a World Cup final at the age of seventeen. In that match, he scored two out of the five-goals Brazil used to beat Sweden. During the 1962 FIFA world cup, he was rated the best player in the world. He is also Brazil’s all-time leading goalscorer with 77 goals in 92 games.
In 1977, he retired from professional football. His final match was an exhibition match between the two clubs he played for (Cosmos and Santos). The match was played at Giants Stadium and was televised live in the US on ABC’s Wide World of Sports and viewed throughout the world. His parents were both in attendance, as well as Bobby Moore and Mohammed Ali.
During his active days, he was at a time, the best-paid athlete in the world. Over four decades after retirement, Pele is still one of the richest ex-football players in the world. His net worth is currently $100 million. Although he no longer plays football, the former Brazilian player earns a lot of money from endorsements.
Pele has been married thrice and had countless mistresses. His first marriage was in 1966 and to Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1982. In 1994, he married gospel singer and psychologist, Assíria Lemos Seixas, and in 2008, the couple went their separate ways after being married for fourteen years.
His third marriage was to Japanese-Brazilian importer Marcia Aoki. They first met in the 1980s, met again in 2008 and began dating in 2010. After dating for about six years, the couple tied the knot in July 2016. The former football player has dated several other women, including TV presenter Xuxa, Anizia Machado (housemaid), journalist Lenita Kurtz, among others.
Pele has several children; his first marriage to Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi produced three – two daughters (Kelly Cristina and Jeniffer) and a son (Edinho). His son Edinho received a thirty-three years jail sentence in 2014 for laundering money and drug trafficking. The sentence was later reduced to twelve years and ten months after an appeal. His second marriage produced a set of twins; Joshua and Celeste, born through fertility treatments in 1996.
His affair with Anizia Machado in 1964 also produced a daughter Sandra Machado who Pele refused to accept even after a DNA test and court rulings proved he was indeed her biological father. He never accepted her nor her children even after her death in 2006. Pele’s affair with journalist Lenita Kurtz also produced a daughter Flávia Kurtz.
7 Interesting Facts To Know About Pele
1. In 1999, he was voted the World Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS). That same year, he became one of the joint winners of FIFA Player of the Century Award.
2. In 1961, the Brazilian president at the time, President Jânio Quadros, declared Pele an “official national treasure” to prevent him from being transferred out of the country
3. According to IFFHS records, Edson Arantes do Nascimento is football’s most successful domestic league goalscorer in the history of football with a total of 650 goals in 694 league matches and 1281 goals in 1363 games. This, however, includes unofficial friendlies.
4. He was never in good terms with his fellow football legend Diego Maradona who he often referred to as a bad example to the young people.
5. He received an honorary British knighthood in 1997.
6. Pele was actually named after Thomas Edison (U.S inventor) only that his parents decided to do a little readjustment and instead of Edison, they removed the “i” and called him Edson instead.
7. He got his nickname Pele while in school. His classmates nicknamed him for his wrong pronunciation of the name of his favourite player Bilé – a local Vasco da Gama goalkeeper at the time.