The greatest footballer of all time may be retired for more than 40 years but his exploits live on today. Read on to find out more facts about Pelé.
Even if you're not a soccer fan, it's more than likely you've heard the name Pele mentioned in the football world. Pele may now be long retired, but at one point in time, he was one of the biggest names around the world.
Everyone has watched a teenager footballer tearing apart the best defenders in the world as a player at the height of his powers, leading one of the greatest football teams of all time to another World Cup.
Pelé was named after the inventor of the lightbulb, Thomas Edison. The young Edson “Pelé” Arantes do Nascimento certainly showed plenty of invention in his career and lit up many football pitches with his skills.
His family gave him the nick-name "Dico". He did not get the nickname Pele until he started school, where he used to pronounce the name of the local Vasco da Gama goalkeeper Bile as Pile. Hence, a classmate of his gave him the nickname Pele.
The Brazil and Santos star wasn’t someone who was happy scoring just one goal. He scored 92 hat tricks, four goals on 31 occasions, five goals on six occasions and he once scored eight in a single match. Amazing statistics!
When Brazil lost the World Cup final to Uruguay in 1950, Pelé saw his father crying. “Don’t worry,” he told him. “One day I’ll win it.” He has always been so confident and had faith in his abilities.
Pele signed for Santos at the young age of 15 and proceeded to score four goals on his debut against FC Corinthians. He is the only player to win three World Cups so far.
In 1961, the Brazilian government declared Pele as a national treasure to prevent foreign football clubs from taking him out of the country.
Aside from being hailed as one of the greatest soccer players of all time, there's more to Pele than just the title alone.
Considered by many as the greatest player of all time, here are top facts about Pelé, the Brazil icon.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento, born 23 October 1940, known as Pelé, is a Brazilian retired professional footballer who played as a forward who was widely regarded as the greatest player of all time.
Pele was among the most successful and popular sports figures of the 20th century. The first and the foremost
fact about Pele
is that during his playing days, Pelé was the best-paid athlete in the world for a long period of time.
Another interesting fact about Pelé is that he was named after the inventor of the lightbulb, Thomas Edison. The young Edson “Pelé” Arantes do Nascimento certainly showed plenty of invention in his career and lit up many football pitches with his skills.
Pelé got his nickname after his mispronunciation of the name of the Brazilian goalkeeper, Bilé, as Pelé. One of his classmates started to call him “Pelé” to tease him and the name stuck. We’re pretty sure his classmate hasn’t won three World Cups so it’s safe to say that Pelé had the last laugh.
, it should be mentioned that his father was also a footballer nicknamed Dondinho, whose claim to fame was scoring five headed goals in a match. Pelé came close with four headed goals against Botafogo but his father managed at least one footballing feat that his son couldn’t emulate.
Among the most outstanding facts about Pelé is that he scored his 1000th goal on 19 November 1969, causing the day to be simply known as Pelé Day in Santos. We wouldn’t begrudge the legend a day of his own, in fairness.
Pelé served as Brazil’s Extraordinary Minister of Sport between 1995 and 1998. He also served as a United Nations ambassador for Ecology and the Environment. We’re not sure what his qualifications were but we’d give him the job without a second thought. He is Pelé, after all.
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A quite noticeable
fact about Pele
is that he scored a total of 1,283 first-class goals, including 77 for Brazil. He won three World Cups, two World Club Championships and nine Sao Paulo State Championships.
Pele was signed by Santos when he was 15. He scored four goals on his league debut in a match against FC Corinthians on September 7, 1956. Waldemar de Brito, another great Brazilian forward, is credited with discovering Pele, taking him to Santos, and telling them then that he was going to be "the greatest football player in the world."
17-year-old Pele became the youngest ever winner of a World Cup. He also scored twice in the final against home side Sweden.
Pele was appointed as Minister of Sport in Brazil in 1995, serving until 1998. He was voted athlete of the century by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1999.
In 1997, Pele was given an honorary British Knighthood. On November 19, 1969, Pele scored his 1000th career goal. Hundreds raced onto the pitch to mob the Brazilian star and it took over 30 minutes for the game to resume.
At Santos, November 19 is known as 'Pele Day' to celebrate the anniversary of his 1,000th goal.
Pele is fifth on the all-time World Cup goalscorers list with 12 - and the second highest-placed Brazilian behind Ronaldo.
When Pele retired, J.B. Pinheiro, the Brazilian ambassador to the United Nations, said: "Pele played football for 22 years, and in that time he did more to promote world friendship and fraternity than any other ambassador anywhere."
One of the amazing
facts about Pelé
is that in 1967, a 48-hour ceasefire was declared in Nigeria so that Federal and Rebel troops could watch Pele play on a visit to the war-torn nation.
Pele said in 2006, "For 20 years they have asked me the same question, who is the greatest? Pele or Maradona? I reply that all you have to do is look at the facts - how many goals did he score with his right foot or with his head?"
When Pele played for the New York, so many of his opponents wanted to swap shirts with him that the club had to give each of their opponents a shirt after every match. "Pele was the main attraction," said Gordon Bradley, one of the club's coaches at the time.
"Sometimes we had to take 25 or 30 shirts with us to a match; otherwise, we'd never have got out of the stadium alive."
Pele made a cameo appearance in the film Mike Bassett, England manager, in which he was interviewed by the broadcaster Martin Bashir.
Pele once commented on the importance of football stars, "When football stars disappear, so do the teams, and that is a very curious phenomenon. It is like in the theatre, in a play, where there is a great star. If the star is not well, the whole cast suffers."
Pele helped raise millions of pounds for charitable causes including Great Ormond Street and Harlem Street Soccer.
English football writer Geoffrey Green once declared, “Di Stefano was manufactured on earth, Pele was made in heaven.”
On August 1, 2010, Pelé was introduced as the Honorary President of a revived New York Cosmos. Pele once said, "A penalty is a cowardly way to score."
In March 2003, Brazilian model Gisele Bundchen was offered special intensive training in flag-waving in advance of the 32nd Brazilian Grand Prix. Why? Organizers wanted her to do a better job than Pele, the previous year's flag waver, who got "distracted" and failed to notice Michael Schumacher crossing the finish line!
Pele and Maradona were not friends. In 2010, Pele said of the Argentinian, “He is not a good example for the youth. He had the God-given gift of being able to play football, and that is why he is lucky." Maradona responded, “Who cares what Pele says? He belongs in a museum.”
England World Cup-winning captain Bobby Moore commented on Pele, “The most complete player I've ever seen.”
Pele's father once scored five headed goals in one game, a feat that Pele was never able to replicate. The most headers Pele ever scored in a game were four.
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Pele's header against Italy in the 1970 World Cup final was their 100th World Cup goal.
Former Manchester City and England star Rodney Marsh once commented, “Comparing Gascoigne to Pele is like comparing Rolf Harris to Rembrandt.”
Pele’s first World Cup finals goal came against Wales in the 1958 quarter-final. Brazil won 1-0.
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Despite the fact that there was no social media at that time,
Pele’s personal life
was known to everyone.
One of the most important
facts about Pelé
is that he Hat-trick at 75! Pele married three times, the last one at the
of 75. In 1964, before Pelé was ever married, he had a love affair with a housemaid named Anizia Machado, which he denied for decades.
The love affair was a scandal for the star because a baby girl was conceived from their relationship. Her name was Sandra Regina Machado and she fought in court for years to receive the acknowledgment from her father that she was his daughter.
Pelé refused to submit DNA to the court, but after five years he finally complied and in 1993 it was determined that Sandra was indeed his daughter. Pelé appealed this ruling, but again in 1996, it was declared that Pelé and Sandra were related.
In 1998, Sandra wrote a book that depicted her effort in proving Pelé was her father and told the story her mother had told her about the love affair between her and the soccer phenomenon. The book was titled "The Daughter the King Did Not Want."
Along with writing a book, Sandra held a position in the port of Santos' city council and was in her second term when she passed away at 42. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and it is unclear how long she was fighting the disease, but it took her life in 2006. Pelé did not attend the funeral but did send a wreath "in the name of the family."
Since April 1994, Pelé has been married to the psychologist and gospel singer Assíria Lemos Seixas.
Pelé’s amorous nature has been well documented between his three marriages, numerous reported affairs and many children. Pelé married in 2016 to his current wife, Aoki, who he proclaims is for him, “the real deal.”
Pelé married his first wife Rosemeri in 1966 and was married to her for 16 years. The couple divorced in 1982 after having three children together. Their first daughter, Kelly Cristina, was born in 1967 and is currently 51 years old.
They then had their first and only son together, Edson, who was born in 1970 and is now 47 years old. Their third child, Jennifer, was born years later in 1978.
Pelé and Rosemeri had many marital issues and Pelé had extramarital affairs throughout their marriage. Pelé moved his family from Brazil to New York in 1975 and Rosemeri and he quickly separated. Kelly, Edson and Jennifer have reported that after the move their father was barely in their lives.
Lenita Kurtz was the first known extramarital affair Pelé had during his marriage with Rosemeri. Lenita was a Brazilian sports journalist who Pelé met while on the sidelines of practices and games.
The couple had a daughter in 1968 named Flávia and she was acknowledged by Pelé as his daughter. Pelé's second known extramarital affair was with Brazilian TV personality Xuxa Meneghel and began in 1981. Pelé used his status to help launch her career when she was at the young age of 17 and he was 41. The two stayed together until after Pelé and Rosemeri divorced, but eventually split things off in 1968. The couple did not have any children together.
Regardless of his treble marriages and extramarital affairs, Pele was a role-model, "Every kid around the world who plays soccer wants to be Pele. I have a great responsibility to show them not just how to be like a soccer player, but how to be like a man."
"Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do."
Pele believed, "If you are first you are first. If you are second, you are nothing."
Pele is also mentioned in the song "Ghetto Superstar" by the rapper Pras. In 2000, Pelé was named second in the BBC's "Sportsman of the Century" award. Boxing legend Muhammad Ali came first.
Tarcisio Burgnich, the Italian defender who marked Pelé in the 1970 World Cup final, said afterwards: "I told myself before the game, he's made of skin and bones just like everyone else — but I was wrong."
In Brazil he is often called “Pérola Negra”, which means Black Pearl.
The Brazilian government declared Pelé an official national treasure in 1961 to prevent
to other countries. In 1993, Pele was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
To persuade Pele to sign for the New York Cosmos in 1975, Clive Toye, the team's general manager said: "Don't go to Italy, don't go to Spain, all you can do is win a championship. Come to the U.S. and you can win a country."
Pele’s first football team was formed with a bunch of friends from his neighborhood, and they called themselves ‘the shoeless ones’.
In Brazil, Coca-Cola sponsors a Pele museum on wheels that travels throughout the country. Cristiano Ronaldo once said, "Pele is the greatest player in football history, and there will only be one Pele."
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On November 21, 1964, Pele scored eight goals as Santos ran riot against Botafogo to register a monumental 11-0 victory.
Pele scored 92 hat-tricks, and scored four goals on 31 occasions, five on six occasions, and once scored eight in one match.
As a boy, Pele used to play with a sock stuffed with paper as he could not afford to buy a football.
Pele has worked as a UNICEF Goodwill ambassador and as a United Nations ambassador, working to protect the environment and fight corruption in Brazil.
Pele came out of international retirement to play one last game for Brazil on October 6, 1976 against club side Flamengo, who won the match 2-0. His last international game for Brazil, however, was a 2-2 draw with Yugoslavia on July 18, 1971.
On October 1, 1977, Pele played his last game as a footballer as Santos played New York Cosmos at the Giants Stadium. He played the first half of the game for the American club, and the second half for Santos.
Brazil never lost a game when Pele and the legendary Garrincha played together.
He holds the record for the most number of goals scored for the national team, which is a record that has stood for almost 40 years.
As another interesting fact about Pele, it’s worth mentioning that he scored Brazil's 100th World Cup goal with his head. Pele had a video game named after him back in the 1980s called 'Pelé's Soccer'.
MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter Jose Landi-Jons was nicknamed "Pelé" after him. Dutch artist Dick Brynestein made a drawing of him and called him Pietje Pele.
His presence in the USA helped boost average attendance across the league by almost 80 percent from 1975 (7,597) to 1977 (13,584). Pele scored his first hat-trick for Santos against Lavras on June 9, 1957.
Pele made his first appearance for New York Cosmos on June 5, 1975, against Dallas Tornadoes. He managed to score on his debut, with the game ending in a 2-2 draw.
Pele starred in Escape to Victory, a World War II drama about a team of prisoners of war who play their Nazi captors in a football match. Unsurprisingly, he played the team's star attacker, Corporal Luis Fernandez, who hailed from Trinidad and Tobago.
In 2005, Pele fronted an advertising campaign for the drug Viagra, and was widely credited for breaking the taboo about speaking or receiving treatment for erectile dysfunction.
American forward Edson Buddle is named after the great Brazilian. "I thought naming him Pele would be too much pressure," his dad revealed. "Edson not many people would know."
As he prepared to kick off in a game during Mexico '70, Pele gestured to the referee that he needed to tie his laces. The cameras panned in to reveal the forward's Puma boots, the company subsequently experienced a huge sales boost.
Pele scored three or more goals a staggering 129 times during his career. He has never liked his nickname, admitting it sounds like "baby-talk".
Pele's 1000th goal was a penalty. Romario, chasing his own 1000th strike in 2007, eventually reached the milestone in the same manner — although his tally is also disputed in some quarters.
Germany legend Franz Beckenbauer said of Pele, "He is the most complete player I ever saw."
Filming on Citizen Kane, widely viewed as one of the defining films in Western cinema, finished on the day of Pele's birth. In 2001, on Pele's birthday the world got its first glimpse at one of the defining gadgets of the modern era, the iPod.
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Pelé began his soccer career at 15. As a young child, he played in many youth soccer clubs and was always regarded as the top player in the league. At the young age of 15, he signed to Santos and began his professional soccer career.
During this first game, he played forward and scored four goals. It was during this first game that his rivals know he was someone to watch out far.
While he has now been retired for over 40 years, he is still regarded by many as the best soccer player in history.
While the nickname "Pele" is what the sporting world knows him by, Pele's legal name is actually Edson. However, due to an error on the birth certificate, he became known as "Edison".
If you're wondering how Pele got his name, it all dates back to his classmates. Originally, he was nicknamed "Dico" by his family which transitioned to "Pele" during his school days.
While the origin of the nickname is not totally understood, one theory is that it was given due to his mispronunciation of the name of his favorite player Bile.
However, in his autobiography, Pele states neither himself nor his friends have any idea where the name came from or what it means.
Although Pele's parents were not very famous, his father was a soccer player, and the family grew up very poor in the state of Sao Paulo.
To earn extra money, Pele worked in tea shops and also as a servant to help his family with bills.
While he was taught how to play soccer by his father, the family could not afford an actual soccer ball and would practice with sock stuff with newspaper or even a grapefruit.
But, despite this poverty, Pele was able to rise against it and come out on top. As his career blossomed, he eventually became known as one of the highest paying soccer players in the world.
Pele’s net worth
is said to be around 100 million dollars.
In 1999, Pele was voted world player of the century by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics. That same year, Pele was elected Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee.
Pele was married three times and was allegedly reported to have had many affairs which is quite understandable considering his net worth. As a result, Pele has many
. Though the exact number has not been biologically proven, it's regarded to be at least seven. In 2016 and at the age of 73, Pele married his 41-year-old partner Marcia Aoki.
It was the 1958 World Cup that Pele became known internationally as one of the best players in the world.
When Brazil lost to Uraguay in the 1950 World Cup final, Pele's father was seen crying after the game. Pele promised him that one day he would win a World Cup. As it turns out, Pele was able to make this dream come true for his father not just one, but three times in total.
Throughout his career, Pele scored 1281 goals in 1363 games. According to the international federation of football history and statistics, this awarded him title to the most goals in history.
He scored 92 hat tricks and once scored eight goals in a single match. With these numbers, it's no surprise Pele was once regarded as the highest paid soccer player in the world. So, he had the highest salary at that time and his current net worth is also noticeable.
After retiring from soccer in 1977, Pele decided to work for The Government and fulfill some of his passions. Between the years of 1995 and 1998, he served as Brazil's Extraordinary Minister of Sport. From here, he also served as a United Nations ambassador and worked in the ecology and environment sector.
November 19th is officially regarded as "Pele Day" in Santos. This day marks the day in which he scored his 1000th goal in 1969.
This goal was scored from a penalty kick and was a highly anticipated moment in all of Brazil. After that goal, the day officially became known as Pele Day and has continued to be celebrated in Santos.
South African President Nelson Mandela presented Pele with a Lifetime Achievement award. Nelson stated that watching Pele play was like watching the delight of a child combined with the extraordinary grace of a man. He also awarded Pele for his kind and compassionate nature and praised him for being a hero.
While Pele is arguably the best soccer player in history, these facts point to the fact that he was so much more than that.
Pele was the recipient of countless awards, a player that rose from poverty and a human being that was highly praised by those around him.
And the final
fact about Pele
is that he has established a legacy that will not soon be forgotten!