10 Things you didn't know about Pele
Edson Arantes do Nascimento famed Pelé was a retired Brazilian professional footballer. He was one of Brazil’s greatest players in football history and regarded as one of the greatest players of all time and labeled "the greatest" by FIFA. He built a highly-reputable name in the sports industry due to his achievements and unmatched contributions to the world of football. At the age of 15, he began playing for Santos FC and was later introduced to the Brazil national team at the age of 16. As a professional footballer, he won 3 FIFA World Cups in the years 1958, 1962, and 1970, making him the only player to hit 3 consecutive wins in a row. Moreover, he became the most successful domestic league goal-scorer with an unmatched winning record of 650 goals out of 694 league matches and with a total of 1281 goals in 1363 games. After his retirement in 1977, he remained on top of the list of Brazil’s greatest players of all time. Before and after his exit from his professional career as a footballer, he achieved countless individual and team awards for his record-breaking achievements. He has also been known for connecting the phrase "The Beautiful Game" with football.
Sadly, Pele died on 29 December 2022, at the age of 82, due to multiple organ failure, a complication of colon cancer. Tributes were paid by current players, including Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappé and Lionel Messi, other major sporting figures, celebrities, and world leaders. His funeral will be held at Santos' Stadium on 2 and 3 January 2023. After the funeral, he will be buried at Memorial Necrópole Ecumênica.
Here are the 10 things you didn't know about Pele.
1. Pele grew up in poverty
The footballer came from a poor background and he grew up in poverty in Bauru in the state of São Paulo. He practiced his dribbling skills with a sock stuffed with rags when his family couldn’t afford to buy him an actual soccer ball. He also earned extra money by working in tea shops as a servant, shining shoes, and selling roasted peanuts outside movie theaters. As he was unable to afford shoes, he played barefoot.
2. He was named after Thomas Edison
Pele's parents named him after the American lightbulb inventor, Thomas Edison. His parents decided to remove the "i" and call him "Edson", but there was a mistake on the birth certificate, leading many documents to show his name as "Edison", not "Edson", as he was called. "Electricity had just been introduced to my hometown in Brazil when I was born," wrote the Três Corações native. The young Edson "Pelé" Arantes do Nascimento certainly showed plenty of invention in his career and lit up many a football pitch with his skills.
He later received the nickname "Pelé" during his school days, when, it is claimed, he was given it because of his pronunciation of the name of his favorite player, local Vasco da Gama goalkeeper Bilé, which he misspoke, but the more he complained the more it stuck.
3. Pele's dad was a footballer
Pele was born on 23 October 1940, in Três Corações, Minas Gerais, Brazil to his father, João Ramos do Nascimento (Dondinho), and his mother, Celeste Arantes. He had two younger siblings. His dad played as a center forward for Atlético Mineiro, Fluminense, and several other football clubs. Pele’s father was also his mentor and trainer.
4. Pele signed his first contract with Santos earning $10 a month
Pele, at the age of 15, signed his first contract with Santos in 1956, earning just $10 a month. As per ESPN, he used his money to buy his mother a gas stove, though their town didn’t haven’t the capability to pipe gas into homes. Later, he signed a three-year $7 million contract with the New York Cosmos in 1975, making him the highest‐paid team athlete in the world at the time.
5. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II
In 1997, Pele received an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II at a ceremony in Buckingham Palace. He strictly cannot use the title ‘Sir’ until he becomes a British citizen. As a Brazilian citizen, he was not eligible to receive an actual knighthood.
6. He is a Brazilian national treasure
Pele led Brazil’s national team to their first World Cup win in 1958. After that, European clubs such as Real Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan, and Manchester United started to develop an interest in him. In 1961 the government of Brazil under President Jânio Quadros declared Pelé an "official national treasure" to prevent him from being transferred out of the country. He was happy to play for his team Santos and he didn’t desire to play outside the country. Pele is a national hero and idol in Brazil.
7. Pele Day is observed on 19 November in Brazil
Pelé Day is celebrated in Santos, Brazil, on November 19 each year, to recognize the date of his 1,000th goal. He scored his 1000th goal on 19 November 1969, causing the day to be simply known as Pelé Day in Santos. Although not a public holiday, most of its Santos citizens celebrate "Pelé Day" – the anniversary of his 1,000th goal.
8. He is a Guinness Record Holder
Pele held two Guinness world records. Those are the most career goals and the most world cup winners’ medals. He is also still the youngest player to score in a World Cup final. In 1958, he became the youngest player to play in a World Cup final match. At that time, he was only 17 years and 249 days at the time of playing his first match. He scored two goals in that final. He won his second World Cup in 1962 at the age of 21. He holds the Guinness World Record for the greatest number of goals scored by an individual. He scored 1,279 goals from 7 September 1956 to 1 October 1977 in 1,363 games.
9. Pele retired from football in 1977
On 1st October 1977, Pele retired. 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."
After Pelé retired from the Brazilian national team and Santos in 1974, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger traveled to Sao Paulo to convince him to return to gameplay for the New York Cosmos. "He invited me to go to the cafe with him, and there he said, 'Listen. You know I'm from the United States, and I'm in politics there. Soccer is coming along there-they're playing it in the schools. Would you like to help us promote soccer in the United States?'” Pelé, who didn’t speak English at the time, recalled to Esquire in 2016. “And I said, 'My God.'" Before Pele signed a contract with the New York Cosmos, Kissinger reportedly sent him a telegram that read: “Should you decide to sign a contract, I am sure your stay in the United States will substantially contribute to closer ties between Brazil and the United States in the field of sports.”
After retiring in 1977, Pelé was a worldwide ambassador for football and made many acting and commercial ventures. In 2010, he was named the honorary president of the New York Cosmos.
10. He was married three times during his lifetime
Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi was the first wife of Pele. They exchanged their marital vows on 21 February 1966. They had 3 children together – 2 daughters named Kelly Christina (b. January 13, 1967) and Jennifer (b. 1978), and a son named Edson (August 27, 1970). In 1982, the duo got divorced.
For the second time, he married singer Assíria Lemos Seixas in 1994 with whom he had twins named Joshua and Celeste on September 28, 1996. After 14 years of marriage, the two decided to call it quits in 2008.
Next, Pele got married to his third wife, Marcia Aoki in 2016, who he had been dating since 2010. Marcia is a Japanese-Brazilian importer of medical equipment from Penápolis, São Paulo. The couple remained together until his death in December 2022.
Previously, Pele had an affair with the housemaid, Anizia Machado in 1964. The couple allegedly had 2 children together. After his separation from Rosemaried, he had an extramarital affair with journalist Lenita Kurtz whom he had a daughter named Flávia. Next, he dated Maria da Graça “Xuxa” Meneghe from 1981 to 1986 for five years.