Pelé, Brazil’s ‘king of football’, dies at 82

Quick, agile, skilful with both feet and like a laser with his heads, he helped Brazil win three World Cup titles

Pelé in 1969. (AP)

He was hailed as the king of football, but it was Pele’s other nickname – the Pérola Negra, or Black Pearl – that best evoked the rare shine he put on his small frame. Pelé, who for decades established himself as the most famous athlete in the world, died on December 29 in a hospital in São Paulo, Brazil. He was 82 years old.

The cause was complications from colon cancer, her manager Joe Fraga said.

Pelé’s eminence in football spanned three decades in which he helped Brazil win World Cup titles in 1958, 1962 and 1970. Quick, agile, adept with both feet and like a laser with his heads, Pelé was built to score and gifted with a jazz mastery. improvisation skills on the soccer field.

During his 22-year professional career, Pelé played over 1,300 games and scored almost as many goals, but he was hardly a one-man show. He saw the field as a chess champion sees the board – two, three, four moves ahead – with the tactical acumen to move on to teammates better positioned to strike.

He was barely 20 years old when the President of Brazil proclaimed him an official national treasure. It was an honorary and economic constraint; this prevented him from being transferred to a wealthy European club willing to pay hugely for his services. Pelé was too essential to the national interest to be exported.

Nonetheless, born and raised in poverty, the soccer champion officially known as Edson Arantes do Nascimento was among the first athletes in the world to recognize the power and richness of personal branding.

Later in his career, after retiring from Brazilian club Santos, which was the country’s dominant team in the 1960s, Pelé took on his global aura in America, signing with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League. . in 1975, when he was in his thirties. The deal was reportedly brokered by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, one of Pele’s staunch admirers and a proponent of the international goodwill engendered by “the beautiful game”.

Pele’s play genius sparked a 48-hour ceasefire in at least one civil war as Nigerians laid down their arms to gaze upon his mastery at a 1969 exhibition in Lagos.

What Pele, the one-named football wonder, meant to the beautiful game

It wasn’t just Pelé’s skill that transcended borders; thus, too, made his fame. He never knew the origin of his nickname. “Pelé” doesn’t make sense in Portuguese, but it was simple enough for a child to pronounce it and be understood in any language, just like Pelé’s signature smile.

As he noted in a 2001 interview, “Wherever you go, there are three icons everyone knows: Jesus Christ, Pelé, and Coca-Cola.”

Brazilian footballer Pelé died on December 29 at the age of 82. He helped Brazil win the World Cup in 1958, 1962 and 1970. (Video: Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post)

A year earlier, football’s international governing body FIFA named Pele and Argentina’s Diego Maradona co-players of the 20th century. The question of who was the greatest player of all time – Pelé, with his three World Cup titles, or Maradona, with his only championship in four World Cup appearances – stirred passions far beyond from South America. It was a debate that offended Pelé.

Pelé made no secret of his lack of regard for Maradona, the Argentinian 20 years his junior whom he saw as a bad role model due to his drug addiction, personal scandals and inept turn as a national coach Argentina for the 2010 World Cup.

Nevertheless, Pelé’s behavior off the pitch was not beyond reproach. He had frequent extramarital banter and refused to acknowledge any of his daughters as his own despite DNA tests proving he was her father.

For the football stars who supported Pelé, there was no doubt who was the greatest. They were devoured by another debate: was Pelé invented for football, or was football invented for Pelé?

“Pelé was the only footballer who went beyond the bounds of logic,” the Dutch-born great Johan Cruyff once said.

Raised in a Roman Catholicism, Pelé said he remained a man of faith and saw his life’s work as fulfilling God’s destiny for him. This fate, however, did not involve a vow of poverty, chastity or determination.

Pelé viewed wealth as power, and he used his fame in sometimes dubious business ventures. Over the years he has made and lost fortunes and been a pitchman for video games, soft drinks, computer products and pharmaceuticals.

Coming from near poverty, he was sometimes humiliated and amazed at his success.

“It’s not easy to psychologically separate Edson from Pelé,” he wrote in one of his autobiographies. “Pele took his own life. He exceeded everything. I feel the dichotomy between Edson and Pelé every time I pull out my Mastercard. On one side, the image of me doing a bike stunt with Pelé’s signature, and on the other, my real signature.

But he had no ambivalence, no trace of doubt about the ability behind the mark.

“In music there is Beethoven and the rest,” Pelé said in 2000. “In football there is Pelé and the rest.”

Edson Arantes do Nascimento was born in Três Corações in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais in October 1940. His birth certificate is dated 21, but he observed October 23 as his birthday.

He learned to play football from his father, João Ramos do Nascimento, a minor league player who found work later in life as a government clerk. Pelé’s upbringing was so austere that he reportedly made soccer balls out of wads of paper stuffed into socks or used grapefruits instead.

When Pelé was 5, his father joined a soccer club in the São Paulo suburb of Bauru and moved his wife and three children there. To help support the family’s meager income, Pelé shined shoes as a child. But his love of football was so great and his lack of interest in his studies so deep that he left school after the fourth year to play football in the streets and take up a short-lived job as an apprentice shoemaker.

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At age 10, he began being coached by Waldemar de Brito, a friend of his father and former Brazil national team player. Pelé grew rapidly. And with an introduction from de Brito, he signed his first professional contract, with Santos, at age 15.

Pelé was called up to the Brazil national team at 16. And he made his World Cup debut aged 17 – the youngest player at the time to feature in the World Cup. Pelé scored six goals in the 1958 tournament, including a hat-trick in the semi-final against France and two goals in the 5-2 final against Sweden.

When the 1962 World Cup started in Chile, he was no longer a teenage phenomenon. Despite his modest height, at 5ft 8in, Pele has been widely acclaimed as the best player in the world. He scored a goal in Brazil’s 2-0 win over Mexico in the opener, but an injury ended his tournament. Brazil continued to defend their title without him.

With Pelé injured again in 1966, Brazil could not defend their title.

Pelé was 29 when the 1970 World Cup started in Mexico. Pele scored the opening goal in Brazil’s 4-1 victory over Italy in the final. “I said to myself before the game, ‘he’s made of skin and bones like everyone else’,” said Italian Tarcisio Burgnich, who defended Pele at the World Cup. “But I was wrong.”

Goalkeeper Costa Pereira said much the same after his Portuguese club fell to Santos in the 1962 Intercontinental Cup. “I arrived hoping to stop a great man,” Pereira said, “but I came away convinced that I had been defeated by someone who was not born on the same planet as all of us.”

After retiring from Brazilian football in 1974 and reportedly in debt of $1 million after bad investments, Pelé signed a three-year, $2.8 million contract with the New York Cosmos of the North American League. of soccer. Sports Illustrated later reported that the fledgling league’s average attendance jumped nearly 80% after it arrived in the United States.

Pelé led the Cosmos to the league championships in 1977. He played his final match – an exhibition against Santos at Giants Stadium – in which he competed for his American club in one half and his former club Brazil in the other half.

Pelé’s marriages to Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi and Assíria Lemos Seixas ended in divorce. He has been romantically linked for many years to model Xuxa, who was 17 when they started dating in 1981. In 2016, he married Marcia Aoki, a business executive 32 years his junior.

Pelé had at least six children from his marriages and other relationships, including his daughter Sandra from an affair with a maid. Based on DNA evidence, Sandra successfully sued in a Brazilian court for legal recognition and also wrote a book called “The Girl the King Didn’t Want”. She died of cancer in 2006.

His son Edson “Edinho” do Nascimento, a former Santos goalkeeper, was arrested in 2005 in a money laundering case and in 2017 received a nearly 13-year sentence. He was allowed to serve his sentence under an arrangement that allowed him to work for Santos on player development.

Complete information about the survivors was not immediately available.

Pelé wrote at least two autobiographies and dabbled in acting and composition. He was appointed United Nations Ambassador for Ecology and the Environment in 1992. From 1995 to 1998 he was Brazil’s Sports Minister.

Pelé’s health problems worsened after the age of 65. He underwent eye surgery for retinal detachment, had hip replacement surgery and was hospitalized with a urinary tract infection.

At 74, he signed a lifetime deal with Santos that included a merchandise licensing deal marking their achievements together.

Nearly four decades after hitting his last competitive ball, Pelé was still building a legacy that lifted a nation, and its sport, in a new century. “Pelé was one of the few to contradict my theory,” artist Andy Warhol said after completing his silkscreen portrait of the great footballer in the late 1970s. “Instead of 15 minutes of fame, he will have 15 centuries.”

Author: niso

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