Sport is full of legendary figures, characters who have gone the extra mile to make the difference on and off the pitch. However, few figures have come through the challenges that the legendary Pele faced. The Brazilian, who was the star of his day and inspired generations to come with his blend of athletic awesomeness and technical prowess, is now 80 years of age. Throughout his life, he has been an evocative, exciting figure – and never short of an opinion on topics in and around the beautiful game.
He is easily considered among the best players of all-time, especially in Brazil. Pele is the all-time top goalscorer for the Selecao, no mean feat given the standard of player to have worn the famous yellow and green. Indeed, he’s the kind of athlete who is known even by people who know nothing of the sport – a man who has transcended the actual sport that he played. Yet when you think of football, even if you are far removed from seeing him play, some of his goals, skills, and moments are among the most iconic of all-time.
Pele, though, believes that coming from a humble background played a massive role in turning him into the man that he is today. Born in Tres Coracoes, he grew up in a small town that was to the northwest of the capital. Growing up without any money, Pele played without proper boots and mostly used “footballs” made not from leather, but from coconut shells or even rolled-up socks. The desire, though, was clear from a young age: Pele was a tremendous talent, and had the time and the desire to become the best.
Pele: Becoming the legend
Having joined in with the junior football leagues by the age of 14, the star shone bright for a young Pele. He joined Santos, a club that offered many chances to young players, and played there his entire career bar a late spell living in New York, when he wore the famous jersey of the New York Cosmos.
Across a glittering career, Pele scored a remarkable 619 goals in just 638 games for the Brazilian giants. In that time, he developed his reputation as a player who managed to bring silk with steel; technically quality but absolutely hard as nails, Pele was a player more akin to the modern equivalent than his teammates.
A player of unique power mixed with incredible flair, he also had the mind and the brain to see exactly what to do, and when to do it. Those who seen the famous Brazilian play know that they witnessed a player who, for his era, was like a young Lionel Messi; head and shoulders above the rest.
The difference is that, until Diego Maradona, Pele had few rivals who could match his quality. Few, though, even today, could match his longevity; there are many players who have been as the greatest in the world – not many, though, repeat the feat for a second season. Pele did for most of his career – a tremendous athlete, technician, and tactician all rolled into one.