It was a very hot day in 1957. The 16-year-old boy snuggled in a very simple bed at a lodging in Vila Belmiro, a neighborhood in Santos, SP. The athletes’ dorms had been built under the stands of that stadium and maybe because of that, they were hot and very humid. But that morning, everything seemed perfect. It was as if the boy could perceive what was about to happen.
Floating in his dreams, he was interrupted by someone calling his name.
-Edson, your father is on the phone. He needs to talk to you.
It was usual that the boys used the telephone in the director’s room at Santos Futebol Clube. On the other side of the phone, there was a father filled with happiness and pride.
-Son, you were selected to play for the Brazilian National Team.
Pelé likes to remember that moment, the first time he was called to wear the yellow jersey. He says it was one of the most important moments in his life. He recalls dancing a little samba in the director’s room to celebrate that phone call. And that’s how it started. For the first time, at the age of 16, on July 7th 1957, Pelé played the final 45 minutes against Argentina at the grand stadium Maracanã.
From that day on, the world would open may doors to him.
Along his career, he played for the National Team 114 times and scored 95 goals, becoming the biggest striker of the team to this date.
Ashy person, Edson Arantes do Nascimento became a worldwide phenomenon in a short period of time. The owner of Santos’s number 10 shirt turned into a world idol and became a model of brilliance and charisma. Admired by kings, queens and plebeians, Pelé was honored by Queen Elizabeth and in 1981 he was elected as the “Athlete of the Century” according to a poll promoted by French newspaper “L’Equipe”. Some years later, in 2000, Pelé was voted as “World Player of the Century” by FIFA (International Federation of Association Football), beating his main competitor, Argentinian Diego Maradona.
Born on 23 October, 1940 in Três Corações, Pelé has always showed talent and interest in becoming a soccer player, just like his father. In 1945 his family moved to another state, São Paulo, and there he started training effectively. By the age of 11, the boy was revealed by the coach Waldemar de Brito and started his career at Bauru Atlético Clube, the local team. In 1956, the same coach introduced Pelé to Santos F.C. assuring that “that boy would be the best soccer player of the world”.
The consecration came in 1958 during the World Cup in Sweden when Brazil won its first title and Pelé scored 6 incredible goals. For the following tournament in Chile, 1962, Pelé couldn’t do much after going through pulled muscles issues and had to abandon the competition leaving his partner Garrincha to shine by his own. Pelé would return for two more World Cups: England 66 and Mexico 70, when the Brazilian squad won their third title.
A SYNONYM FOR PEACE
King Pelé was more than an athlete. He became a symbol for happiness and commotion. One of the most remarkable moments in his career happened when his team, Santos F.C. arrived in Africa. In 1969, the Vila Belmiro squad was touring around that continent for a series of matches. When the Brazilians landed in Congo, they found a country submersed in fear and terror due to a bloody post-independence war. Because of that situation, the team’s directors decided to cancel the match there, but the local people were so amazed by the chance to see Pelé playing that the involved groups arranged a way to stop the war while Santos was in the country. In face of the population’s happiness, the single match became a series of 3 and Pelé scored 4 goals.
Some weeks later, the squad headed to Nigeria, where another war was taking place over two years long – the Biafra War. Their arrival brought a quick moment of peace to the city of Benin and it was so important that the local governor, Samuel Ogbemudia declared the day as a holiday. He even allowed free pass to all the region’s citizens, indiscriminately, so everybody could attend the match. According to Santos F.C., as soon as they left the country, the hostilities restarted.
African people have such an everlasting passion for Pelé that even today you can see billboards in honor of the Soccer King spread around the main streets in some countries of the continent.
PELÉ FOR TALK
Talk Magazine had the honor to interview the eternal Athlete of the Century. He kindly talked to us about the Brazilian National Team, Neymar and life.
How does it feel to be the King of Soccer?
It’s a great responsibility. God gave me this gift and I feel very thankful.
Do Brazil National Team, now in Tite’s era, have chances to show their power again in Russia and make the world forget the terrible 7X1 tragedy?
Each World Cup has a different story. I hope Tite can make his own history by being champion in Russia.
In your opinion, who are the top 3 best players at the moment?
Neymar, Felipe Coutinho and Daniel Alves.
Is Neymar ready to beat Cristiano Ronaldo and become the best soccer player of the world?
Neymar now has the experience to be the best.
Being a successful player – is it a result of luck, talent, ambition or hard work?
The gift of being a great player comes from God, but one needs a lot of hard work.
Was it difficult to act as the Minister of Sports in Brazil?
It was not difficult. It was a good experience.
(Pelé acted as the Minister of Sports from 1995 to 1998 when he approved a series of changes for the Lei Zico – Zico Law – currently known as Lei Pelé. Generally speaking, the legislation follows FiFA’s guidelines about soccer players’ contracts.)
Pelé, what do you expect for the future of Brazil?
In 1958, when I went to Sweden at only 17 and we won the World Cup, I wished that Brazil could be like Sweden or other European countries. 60 years later, I see that my country still has the same social problems.