Pelé was born as Edson Arantes do Nascimento on 23 October 1940 at Três Coracoes (a small village), Minas Gerais, Brazil, the son of Celeste and Joao Ramos do Nascimento. His talent in the game of soccer was recognized early by soccer coach Waldemar de Brito, a former Brasilian World Cup player. He therefor followed in the footsteps of his father who was also a professional player.
In 1956 de Brito took Pelé to Paulo to test him for a professional team called Santos Futebol Clube (SFC). He was accepted and played his first game for the Santos team on 7 September 1956 and scored his first goal in a 7-1 Santos victory. In his first league game for Santos, Pelé scored four goals. De Brito told the director of SFC that “This boy will be the greatest soccer player in the world.” The following year when he was still only sixteen, he joined the Brasilian national team, which was coached by Sylvio Pirilo.
On 7 July 1957 when he was not yet sixteen, he played his first game for Brazil’s national team in which he scored one of two goals in a victory over Argentina. Pelé played in his first World Cup match in 1958 – he played in 4 World Cups namely Sweden in 1958, Chile in 1962, England in 1966 and Mexico in 1970. Of the four, Pelé won three World Cups, in 1958, 1962 and 1970. In total he scored 1,281 goals in 1,363 professional games. When Pelé took part in the World Cups, he was titled the King and the character of soccer was based on the Brazilian standard.
His statistics for international games are awesome. At the club level he shattered records in Brazil. He scored 127 goals for Santos F.C. in 1959, 110 in 1961 and 101 goals in 1965. He led the club to two World Club championships. He also holds the world record for hat tricks (92) and the number of goals scored on the international level (97). His statistics are all the more remarkable when compared to today’s top players who can only just score more that 30 goals per season.
Pelé is given recognition for stopping a war in Nigeria in the late 1960’s. When the very popular sportman played in a few friendly matches there, a 48 hour ceasefire was signed between the warring sides to enable both to watch the games. He is an average-sized man. He was blessed with speed, great balance, tremendous vision, the ability to control the ball superbly, and the ability to shoot powerfully and accurately with either foot or with his head.
He played for the national team until 1971, and played his last game for Santos Futebol Clube on 3 October 1974. He came out of retirement to play for New York Cosmos in the USA. Pelé is given credit for making the game of soccer popular in the USA. Afterwards he continued to make appearances as a speaker around the world thereby promoting the game of soccer.
Pelé, the greatest soccer player ever, in his own words said: It seems that God brought me to Earth with a mission to play soccer. In 1993, Pelé was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame and is the former ambassador of sports in Brazil. He has also done extensive work for children’s causes through UNICEF.