Paradoxically, it is the black and white images that best capture all the light and brilliance that this genius brought to football, closing a life of ’10’ this Thursday when he died in Sao Paulo at the age of 82.
June 29, 1958the world discovered dazzled this 17-year-old boy who scored two goals in the World Cup final against Swedenin Solna, to give Brazil (5-2) its first title.
The speed of his shots, dribbles, technique, were to take off his hat. Skilled with both feet, powerful scoring with a header like nobody else at the time despite his modest 1.72 m, his figure allowed Brazilian soccer to become the “samba soccer” acclaimed throughout the world.
‘O Rei’ won three world titles with the Brazilian team (1958-1962-1970), record for a footballer. Before Qatar-2022 he was the Seleção’s top scorer (77 goals in 92 games), now he shares that honor with Neymar.
It is also the Santos top scorer (1,091 annotations in 1,116 matches), with which he won two Copa Libertadores Y two Intercontinentals in 18 years.
“you are the best of all time“, the German once told him franz beckenbauerpartner in the New York Cosmos, where he closed his career between 1975 and 1977.
Born October 23, 1940 in a poor home in the city of Tres Coraçoes, in the state of Minas Gerais (southeast), as a child he went to live with his parents in Bauru (interior of Sao Paulo) and sold peanuts on the streets.
He started playing soccer when he was a toddler and at the age of 16 he signed a professional contract with Santoswhere he consolidated his career, until his move to the Cosmos for 7 million dollars, a record at the time.
– Three-time champion –
Frail bearing in her youth, the ‘King’ debuted in the Brazilian team against Argentina for the Roca Cup, in 1957, played in the legendary Maracana in Rio de Janeiro. In the second half he left the bench and scored a goalbut without avoiding the 2-1 defeat.
And then came the 1958 World Cup, in which he fulfilled a dream and a promise as a child. “In the 1950 Cup final, Brazil lost to Uruguay and my father was very upset. When I saw him in tears I asked him not to cry anymore, because I was going to win a World Cup for him.“I used to count.
His figure was also projected in the conquest of the two-time championship, in Chile-1962. Although that time, due to an injury, he gave up stardom to the spectacular Garrincha.
The only one to win three World Cups: 🇸🇪Sweden 1958, 🇨🇱Chile 1962 and 🇲🇽Mexico 1970.
O ETERNAL KING! 👑 pic.twitter.com/9MO5nINhwu
—Versus (@SomosVersusPY) December 29, 2022
Eight years later he would have his revenge in Mexico –Brazil was eliminated in the first round in England-1966, where Pelé was beaten to a pulp-, when what is considered the best soccer team in history became three-time champion.
There, in the Azteca stadium, together with stars like Rivellino, Jairzinho or Tostao, Pelé made his king’s crown final by dint of goals and luxuries.
A year earlier, on November 19, 1969 at the Maracana, ‘O Rei’ scored his celebrated thousandth goal from a penalty against Vasco da Gama, a figure questioned because it includes scores in unofficial games.
In 2000, FIFA proclaimed him the footballer of the 20th century. based on the opinion of specialists and federations. Another popular vote, also promoted by the highest rector of soccer, proclaimed the Argentine Diego Armando Maradona.
Already in 1981 the French sports newspaper L’Equipe had been awarded the title of athlete of the centuryalso ratified in 1999 by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
– Minister, singer and actor –
His soccer gave him worldwide fame and with it he met political, artistic and business personalities. His closeness to power and his tenuous support for the anti-racist cause drew criticism throughout his life.
He tried to get away from scandals, but at the end of his life, when his health had already deteriorated, especially with the appearance of a colon tumor removed in September 2021, he confessed that he had several “affairs”.
He had seven recognized children, three with his first wife, two daughters with the second and another who obtained a court order to accept her. Edinho, another of his children, was arrested for drug trafficking.
Pelé was also on the big screen, appearing in at least a dozen works, including documentaries about his life.
After he hung up his boots, Brazil is still looking for the successor to ’10’: Zico, Sócrates, Romario, Ronaldo, Kaká, Robinho, Ronaldinho and the last of them Neymar, also from Santos and protagonist of the most expensive signing in the history, from Barcelona to PSG for 222 million euros in 2017.
But beyond the astronomical contracts, no one takes the crown from ‘O Rei’.