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FIFA World Cup™ Star 1970: Pele

Football should really be spelt with four letters: P E L E. No other player in the world has ever interpreted the game so perfectly as a certain Edson Arantes do Nacimento di Pele, known all over the world as Pele:

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P for perfection. E for exceptional. L for love (of the game). E for elegance.

Pele gave the No 10 jersey a new meaning. The superstar with big eyes, a friendly smile, deep voice, imposing aura, silky movement and the ease of a football magician fascinated billions of people with his artistry. He dribbled and shot his way into their hearts.

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The Brazilian, Pele is still considered to be the greatest footballer of all time. The striker mastered every technique and scored spectacular goals. KUNZ/Augenklick


Pele, the boy from Santos, was, is and remains a people’s hero, not only in his home country. Some called him a “football God” which is almost appropriate when reflecting  upon his unbelievable performances. However, at the same time Pele was and is very down to earth. Virtually no other superstar is so close to the people as the Brazilian.

The FIFA World Cup™ tournaments provided, above all, the stage for Pele’s exploits. He went to Sweden in 1958 as an apprentice and returned home a FIFA World Cup™ winner. Pele was just 17 years and 249 days when Brazil beat Sweden 5-2 in the final. He scored six goals in the four games he played in.

In 1962, Pele, who had since matured to become Brazil’s biggest star, won his second title in Chile. He however had to miss the final against CSSR (2-1) because of an injury. Disappointment followed in 1966: Brazil’s hopes of winning the FIFA World Cup™ for a third time in succession backfired in England.

In 1970 Pele enjoyed a comeback and his third title in his fourth FIFA World Cup™ in Mexico. The crowning moment of the final against Italy on 21 June came when he scored the final goal in Brazil’s 4-1 win. He hit the back of the net four times in his six matches. They were the cornerstone of the South American country’s third FIFA World Cup™ victory.

One year later on 18 July 1971, Pele retired from the “Seleçao” after his 92nd and final international in front of 180,000 fans in the Maracana Stadium. He refused to make a comeback at the FIFA World Cup™ 1974 in Germany.

Four FIFA World Cups™ and three “gold medals” – something no other player had ever achieved. Later in his book “My Life”, the Brazilian described the many joyous moments in his career. He looked back quite emotionally at the 4-1 against Italy and the resulting FIFA World Cup™ triumph in Mexico. “I prayed in a corner of our changing room and thanked God for everything he’d given me in my life up until then.” At the age of 29, Pele had reached the pinnacle of his exceptional career. A team had won the “Coupe Jules Rimet” for the first time on three occasions and Pele had played a decisive role. The Brazilians were allowed to keep the first FIFA World Cup™ Official Trophy and not just the copy. 

Countrymen later stole the original FIFA World Cup™ Official Trophy, the “Golden Goddess”, from the football association’s safe in Rio and then proceeded to melt it down. For Pele it was like a personal insult. Though Pele never captained his team once in their three World Cup wins, he didn’t need a captain’s armband to be the team’s leader.

Pele became not only a football phenomenon but also a symbol for the poor that live in the hope of rising from a dishwasher to millionaire at some time. The fans’ affection made Pele a special kind of star. Though famous all over the world, Pele never took advantage of his popularity. He treats ordinary people in the same friendly way as he does statesmen.

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After the 2002 World Cup final, Pele is seen giving the German keeper Oliver Kahn some words of encouragement. To the left FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, to the right Tomas Linke. KUNZ/Augenklick


Pele was born on 23 October 1940 and brought up in Três Coraçoes, a small town between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Known by his playing name of Giovanni Dondinho, his father João Ramos do Nascimento was also a professional footballer. Pele, an apprentice shoemaker as a boy, formed his own private club when aged only 10. The club was named after his street: Setimo de Sétembro (7  September).

He joined Santos in 1955. For a long time, the government refused to allow him to be transferred abroad. It was only in 1975 that he went to USA where played for Cosmos New York for two years. November 19, 1969 was a very special day in his career. A day that saw him score his 1000th goal with a penalty against Vasco da Gama and it was naturally celebrated all over Brazil. The idol of the football world had again achieved something that has gone unequalled. 

On 1 October 1977 Pele retired for a second and final time after the match between Cosmos and Santos in front of  75,000 spectators in the Giants Stadium. Statisticians have worked out that Pele absolved 1,300 games and scored almost as many goals.

Edson Arantes do Nacimento mastered the transition to being a successful businessman and he also became his country’s sport minister and UNESCO ambassador. In 1999 he was voted FIFA Player of the Century and in 2004 he received, along with Franz Beckenbauer, the FIFA Centennial Order of Merit award in Zürich.  The best footballer of all time considers the FIFA World Cup™ 1970 to have been his best tournament. But everybody knows that Pele’s magnificent services cannot be reduced to just one FIFA World Cup™.