No fanfare as ‘Black Pearl’ mourns death of his brother Jair
He is known as the ‘Black Pearl’ and is one of the all time legendary sportspersons of the modern world. A wizard with his feet, he mesmerized both the connoisseurs of the game and the fans with equal aplomb. He was indeed a “terror” to his opponents and we are talking about Brazilian soccer great Pele, who was born in 1940 and turned 80 on Friday October 23, but the celebration will have to wait.
His long-time spokesman, Pepito Fornos, said Pele will likely spend his birthday at his mansion in the beachfront city of Guaruj, on the coast of Sao Paulo state, where he has been since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also has residences in Santos and Sao Paulo.
“He will only stay with his family. No party at all,” Fornos said. That has been the case all his life. Fornos said Pele isn’t speaking publicly because he is still mourning his brother Jair, who died of cancer in March.
In Depth @ Trinity Mirror joins the legions of soccer fans in raising a toast to this sporting great. The three-time World Cup winner is expected to receive a flood of tributes from players, fans, celebrities and politicians. His family named him after legendary American inventor Thomas Alva Edison and in Brazilan his name was Edson Arantes do Nascimiento. Perhaps inspired by the name, Pele became an ‘inventor’ in his own sense but on the soccer field leaving behind a legacy that none can dare to copy though many soccer greats have emerged since his time.
His family gave him the nick-name “Dico” and he did not get be known as Pele until he started school. In fact, a classmate of his teased him as Pele as he used to pronounce the name of the local Vasco da Gama goalkeeper Bile as Pile and the name got stuck not only on his jersey but also in golden letters in the annals of soccer history.
So great was his contribution to the game and so cherished was his skill that the Brazilian government declared Pele an official national treasure in 1961 to prevent him from being transferred out of the country.
Pele was signed by Santos when he was 15. He scored four goals on his league debut in a match against FC Corinthians on September 7, 1956. At 17, Pele became the youngest ever winner of a World Cup. He also scored twice in the final against home side Sweden.
He holds the record for the most number of goals scored for the national team, which is a record that has stood for almost 40 years. Pele scored 92 hat-tricks, and scored four goals on 31 occasions, five on six occasions, and once scored eight in a match.
Pele scored three or more goals a staggering 129 times during his career. Pele is the only player to have been a part of three World Cup winning teams.
Brazil’s leading goal scorer
Pele is Brazil’s all-time leading scorer with 77 goals, although Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior (aka Neymar) is closing in on that record with 64. But Neymar, the Paris Saint-Germain striker, trails far behind when it comes to World Cup titles, which Pele won in 1958, 1962 and 1970.
No other player has accomplished that feat. Pele once said: “A penalty is a cowardly way to score.”
Pele also collected a slew of trophies for Brazilian club Santos from 1956-74, including 10 Sao Paulo state league titles, which was a top tournament at the time, six Brazilian championships, two Copa Libertadores titles and the Intercontinental Cup in 1962 and 1963.
The Brazilian ended his career with the New York Cosmos, where he played from 1975-77, winning one national title and attracting sports greats like boxer Muhammad Ali to watch him play as soccer took root in the United States.
Pele was also Brazil’s sports minister from 1995-98. Two years later, he shared the FIFA award for player of the century with Argentina great Diego Maradona. The Brazilian received the most votes from members of the soccer body, while the Argentine prevailed in an online vote.
When Pele retired, J.B. Pinheiro, the Brazilian ambassador to the United Nations, said: “Pele played football for 22 years, and in that time he did more to promote world friendship and fraternity than any other ambassador anywhere.”
Since 1992, Pele has done charity work as a U.N goodwill ambassador. He stopped his career as a businessman in 2004 after failed attempts in the sports marketing field.
The soccer great has had mobility problems since a failed hip replacement surgery in 2012. He has been forced to use walkers and wheelchairs in public. He has also been admitted to hospitals in recent years for kidney and prostate procedures. The celebrations in Brazil for Pele began on Feb. 20, but he didn’t attend the unveiling of a life size statue of him at Maracan Stadium in Rio de Janeiro that day.
That was also part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of Brazil’s 1970 World Cup triumph, which was for many the greatest moment of Pele’s decorated career.
Pele came out of international retirement to play one last game for Brazil on October 6, 1976 against club side Flamengo, who won the match 2-0. His last international game for Brazil, however, was a 2-2 draw with Yugoslavia on July 18, 1971.
Pele or Maradona?
Pele said in 2006: “For 20 years they have asked me the same question, who is the greatest? Pele or Maradona? I reply that all you have to do is look at the facts – how many goals did he score with his right foot or with his head?”
“Now, we can’t say that Maradona was a great header. He didn’t score goals with headers. And we cannot say Maradona shot very well with both feet, because he didn’t shoot with his right, only mainly with his left..,” Pele says it is all in good humour.
“So from time to time, when people make comparisons, I make jokes about that. For me he was a great player, just that you can’t compare Maradona with me.” Pele says he and Diego Maradona are friends, despite a constant war of words over the years, but believes the two former World Cup winners should not be compared.
In 2010, Pele said of the Argentinian: “He is not a good example for the youth. He had the God-given gift of being able to play football, and that is why he is lucky.” Maradona’s response: “Who cares what Pele says? He belongs in a museum.”
Pele 10 Jersey in demand: When Pele played for the New York, so many of his opponents wanted to swap shirts with him that the club had to give each of their opponents a shirt after every match. “Pele was the main attraction,” says Gordon Bradley, one of the club’s coaches at the time. “Sometimes we had to take 25 or 30 shirts with us to a match – otherwise, we’d never have got out of the stadium alive.”
A good role model: “How do you spell Pelé?” the Times of London once declared “G-O-D”. But Pele on being a role-model, says “Every kid around the world who plays soccer wants to be Pele. I have a great responsibility to show them not just how to be like a soccer player, but how to be like a man.”
Escape to Victory: Pele starred in ‘Escape to Victory’, a World War II drama about a team of prisoners of war who play their Nazi captors in a soccer match. Unsurprisingly, he played the team’s star attacker, Corporal Luis Fernandez, who hailed from Trinidad and Tobago. Historic date with October 23: Filming on Citizen Kane, widely viewed as one of the defining films in Western cinema, finished on the day of Pele’s birth. In 2001, on Pele’s birthday the world got its first glimpse at one of the defining gadgets of the modern era — the iPod.
World Cup goals: Pele is fifth on the all-time World Cup goal scorers list with 12 – and the second highest-placed Brazilian behind Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo.
Compiled by: In Depth Editorial Team