A tribute to Brazil and football icon Edson Arantes do Nascimento ‘Pele’ on his 80th birthday

One of football’s greatest figures and arguably the best ever to grace the sport turns 80 today.
Pelé - Bresil
© FIFA

Edson Arantes do Nascimento was born 80 years ago today and we’ve come to know him as Pele. That name surely rings a bell to everyone and he has no doubt left a mark on football and sport in general for generations to come. 

As Brazil‘s all-time leading goal scorer, he is one of sport’s most revered figures. 

Pele began his professional career with Santos before he made his debut for the national side at a  tender age of  16. 

Pele’s debut for Santos came shortly after he joined the club at the age of 15 and he grabbed a goal in his first match as they beat Corinthians Santo Andre 7-1. 

 Pele was only 16 years and nine months when h egrabbed his first goal for Brazil. Till date, he remains Brazil’s youngest ever goal scorer. 

In his second season with Santos, Pele quickly became the league’s top scorer and gathered attention from top European sides such as Real Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan and Manchester United. 

Selected for the Brazil team that flew to the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, Pele became the youngest ever player to star in a World Cup final as his team faced the host nation in Stockholm.  

Pele scored twice to lead Brazil to a 5-2 victory, thus making him both the youngest ever World Cup final goal scorer and World Cup winner. 

A part of the Brazil squad that travelled to the World Cup in Chile, 1962, Pele provided an assist and a goal in the first game of the tournament against Mexico. He suffered an injury in the next fixture against Czechoslovakia and was forced to miss the remainder of the tournament. Ultimately, Brazil eventually lifted another title without him. 

 

At Santos, Pele claimed his first major title in 1958 when the club went all the way in the Campeonato Paulista. Pele was the tournament’s leading goal scorer with 58 goals and that is a record that still stands till date. 

During 1960, Pele scored 47 goals to help his team regain the Campeonato Paulista trophy after losing it the previous year. The club went on to win the Taca Brasil that same year, beating Bahia in the finals. Pele ended the tournament as top goalscorer with nine goals, and the victory saw Santos qualify for the Copa Libertadores tournament. 

Pele initially refused a call-up to the Brazil team for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, but eventually agreed to play after scoring six goals in the qualifying stages. Responsible for 53 per cent of Brazil’s goals through assists and his own scoring, Pele led the team to victory and received the Golden Boot for his efforts. 

 

Pele’s last international match was on July 18, 1971 against Yugoslavia in Rio de Janeiro. Throughout his international career, Brazil won 76 games, drew 14 and lost 11 whilst Pele was on the pitch. 

Pele played his last league match for Santos in 1974 and was thought to have gone into semi-retirement until he signed for New York Cosmos in 1975. The striker made 64 appearances for the American side, scoring 37 times before fully retiring after a Santos versus Cosmos exhibition match in 1977 where he played a half for each side. 

Since retirement Pele has become a player mentioned in most discussions about the greatest sportsmen of all time.  

In a career spanning 21 years, Pele tallied 541 league goals in 560 games, a total of 767 in 831 games across all competitions and a grand total of 1281 goals in 1367 appearances during his professional senior career. 

 

The Brazilian made a series of records in his playing career and is currently his country’s top scorer with 77 goals to his name. The legendary footballer is also the only player in the world to win three World Cups, winning the title with Brazil in 1958, 1962 and 1970. 

Along with a slew of national records, Pele also holds numerous records in club football with Santos. Playing for the side from 1956-74, Pele won 10 Sao Paulo state league titles, six Brazilian championships, two Copa Libertadores titles and the Intercontinental Cup in 1962 and 1963 with the team. 

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