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Pelé Africa do Sul Cropped.jpg
Pelé in 2010
Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento
23 October 1940 (age 78)
Três Corações, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Footballer humanitarian
Height 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)
Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi (m. 1966–1982)
Assíria Lemos Seixas (m. 1994–2008)
Marcia Aoki (m. 2016)
Partner(s) Xuxa Meneghel (1981–1986)
Children 7
Parent(s) Dondinho, Celeste Arantes
Association football career
Playing position
Attacking midfielder
Youth career
1953–1956 Bauru
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1956–1974 Santos 638 (619)
1975–1977 New York Cosmos 56 (31)
Total 694 (650)
National team
1957–1971 Brazil 92 (77)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league
Edson Arantes do Nascimento (Brazilian Portuguese: [ˈɛtsõ (w)ɐˈɾɐt̃ ʃiz
du nɐsiˈmẽtu]; born 23 October 1940), known as Pelé ([peˈlɛ]), is a
Brazilian retired professional footballer who played as a forward. He is
regarded by many in the sport, including football writers, players, and
fans, as the greatest player of all time. In 1999, he was voted World
Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History
& Statistics (IFFHS), and was one of the two joint winners of the FIFA
Player of the Century award. That same year, Pelé was elected Athlete
of the Century by the International Olympic Committee. According to
the IFFHS, Pelé is the most successful league goal-scorer in the world,
scoring 1281 goals in 1363 games, which included unofficial friendlies
and tour games. During his playing days, Pelé was for a period the best-
paid athlete in the world.

Pelé began playing for Santos at age 15 and the Brazil national team at
16. During his international career, he won three FIFA World Cups:
1958, 1962 and 1970, being the only player ever to do so. Pelé is the all-
time leading goalscorer for Brazil with 77 goals in 92 games. At club
level he is the record goalscorer for Santos, and led them to the 1962 and
1963 Copa Libertadores. Known for connecting the phrase "The
Beautiful Game" with football, Pelé's "electrifying play and penchant for
spectacular goals" made him a star around the world, and his teams
toured internationally in order to take full advantage of his popularity.
Since retiring in 1977, Pelé has been a worldwide ambassador for
football and has made many acting and commercial ventures. In 2010,
he was named the Honorary President of the New York Cosmos.

Averaging almost a goal per game throughout his career, Pelé was adept
at striking the ball with either foot in addition to anticipating his
opponents' movements on the field. While predominantly a striker, he
could also drop deep and take on a playmaking role, providing assists
with his vision and passing ability, and he would also use his dribbling
skills to go past opponents. In Brazil, he is hailed as a national hero for
his accomplishments in football and for his outspoken support of
policies that improve the social conditions of the poor. Throughout his
career and in his retirement, Pelé received several individual and team
awards for his performance in the field, his record-breaking
achievements, and legacy in the sport.

1 Early years
2 Club career
2.1 Santos
2.2 New York Cosmos
3 International career
3.1 1958 World Cup
3.2 South American Championship
3.3 1962 World Cup
3.4 1966 World Cup
3.5 1970 World Cup
4 Style of play
5 Reception and legacy
5.1 Accolades
6 Personal life
6.1 Relationships and children
6.2 Politics
6.3 Health
7 After football
8 Honours
8.1 International
8.2 Club
8.3 Individual
9 Personal records
10 Career statistics
10.1 Club
10.2 International
10.3 Summary
11 See also
12 Notes
13 References
14 Bibliography
15 External links
Early years
Born in Três Corações in 1940, Pelé has a street named after him in the
city – Rua Edson Arantes do Nascimento. A statue of Pelé is also
prominently placed in a plaza near downtown.
Pelé was born Edson Arantes do Nascimento on 23 October 1940, in
Três Corações, Minas Gerais, Brazil, the son of Fluminense footballer
Dondinho (born João Ramos do Nascimento) and Celeste Arantes. He
was the elder of two siblings.[1] He was named after the American
inventor Thomas Edison.[2] 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 is called.[2][3] He was originally nicknamed "Dico" by his
family.[1][4] He 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. In his
autobiography, Pelé stated he had no idea what the name means, nor did
his old friends.[1] Apart from the assertion that the name is derived from
that of Bilé, and that it is Hebrew for "miracle" (‫)פֶֶּ֫ לֶא‬, the word has no
known meaning in Portuguese.[note 1][5]

Pelé grew up in poverty in Bauru in the state of São Paulo. He earned

extra money by working in tea shops as a servant. Taught to play by his
father, he could not afford a proper football and usually played with
either a sock stuffed with newspaper and tied with a string or a
grapefruit.[6][1] He played for several amateur teams in his youth,
including Sete de Setembro, Canto do Rio, São Paulinho, and
Amériquinha.[7] Pelé led Bauru Athletic Club juniors (coached by
Waldemar de Brito) to two São Paulo state youth championships.[8] In
his mid-teens, he played for an indoor football team called Radium.
Indoor football had just become popular in Bauru when Pelé began
playing it. He was part of the first Futebol de Salão (indoor football)
competition in the region. Pelé and his team won the first championship
and several others.[9]

According to Pelé, indoor football presented difficult challenges; he said

it was a lot quicker than football on the grass and that players were
required to think faster because everyone is close to each other in the
pitch. Pelé accredits indoor football for helping him think better on the
spot. In addition, indoor football allowed him to play with adults when
he was about 14 years old. In one of the tournaments he participated, he
was initially considered too young to play, but eventually went on to end
up top scorer with fourteen or fifteen goals. "That gave me a lot of
confidence", Pelé said, "I knew then not to be afraid of whatever might

Club career
In 1956, de Brito took Pelé to Santos, an industrial and port city located
near São Paulo, to try out for professional club Santos FC, telling the
directors at Santos that the 15-year-old would be "the greatest football
player in the world."[10] Pelé impressed Santos coach Lula during his
trial at the Estádio Vila Belmiro, and he signed a professional contract
with the club in June 1956.[11] Pelé was highly promoted in the local
media as a future superstar. He made his senior team debut on 7
September 1956 at the age of 15 against Corinthians Santo Andre and
had an impressive performance in a 7–1 victory, scoring the first goal in
his prolific career during the match.[12][13]

When the 1957 season started, Pelé was given a starting place in the first
team and, at the age of 16, became the top scorer in the league. Ten
months after signing professionally, the teenager was called up to the
Brazil national team. After the 1958 and the 1962 World Cup, wealthy
European clubs, such as Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester
United,[14] tried to sign him in vain; in 1958 Inter Milan even managed
to get him a regular contract, but Angelo Moratti was forced to tear it
down following an attack suffered by the chairman of Santos by a
Brazilian fan.[15] However, 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.[6][16]

Pelé with Santos in the Netherlands, October 1962

Pelé won his first major title with Santos in 1958 as the team won the
Campeonato Paulista; Pelé would finish the tournament as top scorer
with 58 goals,[17] a record that stands today. A year later, he would help
the team earn their first victory in the Torneio Rio-São Paulo with a 3–0
over Vasco da Gama.[18] However, Santos was unable to retain the
Paulista title. In 1960, Pelé scored 33 goals to help his team regain the
Campeonato Paulista trophy but lost out on the Rio-São Paulo
tournament after finishing in 8th place.[19] In the 1960 season, Pelé
scored 47 goals and helped Santos regain the Campeonato Paulista. The
club went on to win the Taça Brasil that same year, beating Bahia in the
finals; Pelé finished as top scorer of the tournament with 9 goals. The
victory allowed Santos to participate in the Copa Libertadores, the most
prestigious club tournament in the Western hemisphere.[20]

"I arrived hoping to stop a great man, but I went away convinced I had
been undone by someone who was not born on the same planet as the
rest of us."

—Benfica goalkeeper Costa Pereira following the loss to Santos in

Santos's most successful Copa Libertadores season started in 1962;[22]
the team was seeded in Group One alongside Cerro Porteño and
Deportivo Municipal Bolivia, winning every match of their group but
one (a 1–1 away tie versus Cerro). Santos defeated Universidad Católica
in the semifinals and met defending champions Peñarol in the finals.
Pelé scored twice in the playoff match to secure the first title for a
Brazilian club.[23] Pelé finished as the second top scorer of the
competition with four goals. That same year, Santos would successfully
defend the Campeonato Brasileiro (with 37 goals from Pelé) and the
Taça Brasil (Pelé scoring four goals in the final series against Botafogo).
Santos would also win the 1962 Intercontinental Cup against
Benfica.[24] Wearing his number 10 shirt, Pelé produced one of the best
performances of his career, scoring a hat-trick in Lisbon as Santos won
5–2.[25][26] As the defending champions, Santos qualified
automatically to the semi-final stage of the 1963 Copa Libertadores. The
ballet blanco, the nickname given to Santos for Pelé, managed to retain
the title after victories over Botafogo and Boca Juniors. Pelé helped
Santos overcome a Botafogo team that contained Brazilian legends such
as Garrincha and Jairzinho with a last-minute goal in the first leg of the
semi-finals which made it 1–1. In the second leg, Pelé scored a hat-trick
in the Estádio do Maracanã as Santos won, 0–4, in the second leg.
Santos started the final series by winning, 3–2, in the first leg and
defeating Boca Juniors 1–2, in La Bombonera. It was a rare feat in
official competitions, with another goal from Pelé.[27] Santos became
the first (and to date the only) Brazilian team to lift the Copa
Libertadores in Argentine soil. Pelé finished the tournament with 5
goals. Santos lost the Campeonato Paulista after finishing in third place
but went on to win the Rio-São Paulo tournament after a 0–3 win over
Flamengo in the final, with Pelé scoring one goal. Pelé would also help
Santos retain the Intercontinental Cup and the Taça Brasil against Milan
and Bahia respectively.[24]

Pelé is the all-time leading goalscorer for Santos.

In the 1964 Copa Libertadores, Santos were beaten in both legs of the
semi-finals by Independiente. The club won the Campeonato Paulista,
with Pelé netting 34 goals. Santos also shared the Rio-São Paulo title
with Botafogo and won the Taça Brasil for the fourth consecutive year.
In the 1965 Copa Libertadores, Santos reached the semi-finals and met
Peñarol in a rematch of the 1962 final. After two matches, a playoff was
needed to break the tie.[28] Unlike 1962, Peñarol came out on top and
eliminated Santos 2–1.[28] Pelé would, however, finish as the topscorer
of the tournament with eight goals.[29] This proved to be the start of a
decline as Santos failed to retain the Torneio Rio-São Paulo. In 1966,
Pelé and Santos also failed to retain the Taça Brasil as Pelé's goals were
not enough to prevent a 9–4 defeat by Cruzeiro (led by Tostão) in the
final series. The club did, however, win the Campeonato Paulista in
1967, 1968 and 1969. On 19 November 1969, Pelé scored his 1000th
goal in all competitions, in what was a highly anticipated moment in
Brazil. The goal, popularly dubbed O Milésimo (The Thousandth),
occurred in a match against Vasco da Gama, when Pelé scored from a
penalty kick, at the Maracanã Stadium.[30]

Pelé states that his most memorable goal was scored at Rua Javari
stadium on a Campeonato Paulista match against São Paulo rival Clube
Atlético Juventus on 2 August 1959. As there is no video footage of this
match, Pelé asked that a computer animation be made of this specific
goal.[31] In March 1961, Pelé scored the gol de placa (goal worthy of a
plaque), against Fluminense at the Maracanã.[32] Pelé received the ball
on the edge of his own penalty area, and ran the length of the field,
eluding opposition players with feints, before striking the ball beyond
the goalkeeper.[32] A plaque was commissioned with a dedication to
"the most beautiful goal in the history of the Maracanã".[33]

In 1967, the two factions involved in the Nigerian Civil War agreed to a
48-hour ceasefire so they could watch Pelé play an exhibition game in
Lagos.[34] During his time at Santos, Pelé played alongside many gifted
players, including Zito, Pepe, and Coutinho; the latter partnered him in
numerous one-two plays, attacks, and goals.[35]

New York Cosmos

Pelé signing a football for U.S. President Richard Nixon at the White
House in 1973, two years before joining the New York Cosmos
After the 1974 season (his 19th with Santos), Pelé retired from Brazilian
club football although he continued to occasionally play for Santos in
official competitive matches. Two years later, he came out of semi-
retirement to sign with the New York Cosmos of the North American
Soccer League (NASL) for the 1975 season. Though well past his prime
at this point, Pelé was credited with significantly increasing public
awareness and interest of the sport in the United States. Hoping to fuel
the same kind of awareness in the Dominican Republic, he and the
Cosmos team played in an exhibition match against Haitian team,
Violette AC, in the Santo Domingo Olympic Stadium on 3 June 1976,
where over 25,000 fans watched him score a winning goal in the last
seconds of the match, leading the Cosmos to a 2–1 victory.[36] He led
the Cosmos to the 1977 NASL championship, in his third and final
season with the club.[37]

Pelé (left) with Eusébio (far right) before a game in the NASL in April
On 1 October 1977, Pelé closed out his career in an exhibition match
between the Cosmos and Santos. Santos arrived in New York after
previously defeating the Seattle Sounders in New Jersey, 2–0. The
match was played in front of a sold out crowd at Giants Stadium and
was televised in the United States on ABC's Wide World of Sports as
well as throughout the world. Pelé's father and wife both attended the
match, as well as Muhammad Ali and Bobby Moore.[38]
International career
Pelé's first international match was a 2–1 defeat against Argentina on 7
July 1957 at the Maracanã.[39][40] In that match, he scored his first goal
for Brazil aged 16 years and nine months, and he remains the youngest
goalscorer for his country.[41][42]

1958 World Cup

Pelé (number 10) dribbles past three Swedish players at the 1958 World
Pelé arrived in Sweden sidelined by a knee injury but on his return from
the treatment room, his colleagues stood together and insisted upon his
selection.[43] His first match was against the USSR in the third match of
the first round of the 1958 FIFA World Cup, where he gave the assist to
Vavá's second goal.[44] He was the youngest player of that tournament,
and at the time the youngest ever to play in the World Cup.[note 2][40]
Against France in the semifinal, Brazil was leading 2–1 at halftime, and
then Pelé scored a hat-trick, becoming the youngest in World Cup
history to do so.[46]

17-year-old Pelé cries on the shoulder of goalkeeper Gilmar after Brazil

won the 1958 World Cup Final
On 29 June 1958, Pelé became the youngest player to play in a World
Cup final match at 17 years and 249 days. He scored two goals in that
final as Brazil beat Sweden 5–2 in Stockholm, the capital. His first goal
where he flicked the ball over a defender before volleying into the
corner of the net, was selected as one of the best goals in the history of
the World Cup.[47] Following Pelé's second goal, Swedish player
Sigvard Parling would later comment; "When Pelé scored the fifth goal
in that Final, I have to be honest and say I felt like applauding".[48]
When the match ended, Pelé passed out on the field, and was revived by
Garrincha.[49] He then recovered, and was compelled by the victory to
weep as he was being congratulated by his teammates. He finished the
tournament with six goals in four matches played, tied for second place,
behind record-breaker Just Fontaine, and was named best young player
of the tournament.[50]

It was in the 1958 World Cup that Pelé began wearing a jersey with
number 10. The event was the result of disorganization: the leaders of
the Brazilian Federation did not send the shirt numbers of players and it
was up to FIFA to choose the number 10 shirt to Pelé who was a
substitute on the occasion.[51] The press proclaimed Pelé the greatest
revelation of the 1958 World Cup, and he was also retroactively given
the Silver Ball as the second best player of the tournament, behind

South American Championship

Pelé also played in the South American Championship. In the 1959
competition he was named best player of the tournament and was top
scorer with 8 goals, as Brazil came second despite being unbeaten in the
tournament.[48][52] He scored in five of Brazil’s six games, including
two goals against Chile and a hat-trick against Paraguay.[53]

1962 World Cup

Pelé with Brazil taking on Italy’s Giovanni Trapattoni at the San Siro,
Milan in 1963
When the 1962 World Cup started, Pelé was the best rated player in the
world.[54] In the first match of the 1962 World Cup in Chile, against
Mexico, Pelé assisted the first goal and then scored the second one, after
a run past four defenders, to go up 2–0.[55] He injured himself in the
next game while attempting a long-range shot against
Czechoslovakia.[56] This would keep him out of the rest of the
tournament, and forced coach Aymoré Moreira to make his only lineup
change of the tournament. The substitute was Amarildo, who performed
well for the rest of the tournament. However, it was Garrincha who
would take the leading role and carry Brazil to their second World Cup
title, after beating Czechoslovakia at the final in Santiago.[57]

1966 World Cup

Pelé was the most famous footballer in the world during the 1966 World
Cup in England, and Brazil fielded some world champions like
Garrincha, Gilmar and Djalma Santos with the addition of other stars
like Jairzinho, Tostão and Gérson, leading to high expectations for
them.[58] Brazil was eliminated in the first round, playing only three
matches.[58] The World Cup was marked, among other things, for brutal
fouls on Pelé that left him injured by the Bulgarian and Portuguese

Pelé scored the first goal from a free kick against Bulgaria, becoming the
first player to score in three successive FIFA World Cups, but due to his
injury, a result of persistent fouling by the Bulgarians, he missed the
second game against Hungary.[58] Brazil lost that game and Pelé,
although still recovering, was brought back for the last crucial match
against Portugal at Goodison Park in Liverpool by the Brazilian coach
Vicente Feola. Feola changed the entire defense, including the
goalkeeper, while in midfield he returned to the formation of the first
match. During the game, Portugal defender João Morais fouled Pelé, but
was not sent off by referee George McCabe; a decision retrospectively
viewed as being among the worst refereeing errors in World Cup
history.[60] Pelé had to stay on the field limping for the rest of the game,
since substitutes were not allowed at that time.[60] After this game he
vowed he would never again play in the World Cup, a decision he would
later change.[54]

1970 World Cup

Pelé was called to the national team in early 1969, he refused at first, but
then accepted and played in six World Cup qualifying matches, scoring
six goals.[61] The 1970 World Cup in Mexico was expected to be Pelé's
last. Brazil's squad for the tournament featured major changes in relation
to the 1966 squad. Players like Garrincha, Nilton Santos, Valdir Pereira,
Djalma Santos and Gilmar had already retired. However, Brazil's 1970
World Cup squad, which included players like Pelé, Rivelino, Jairzinho,
Gérson, Carlos Alberto Torres, Tostão and Clodoaldo, is often
considered to be the greatest football team in history.[62][63]

Pelé, front row second from right, before the match against Peru in the
1970 World Cup
The front five of Jairzinho, Pelé, Gerson, Tostão and Rivelino together
created an attacking momentum, with Pelé having a central role in
Brazil's way to the final.[64] All of Brazil's matches in the tournament
(except the final) were played in Guadalajara, and in the first match
against Czechoslovakia, Pelé gave Brazil a 2–1 lead, by controlling
Gerson's long pass with his chest and then scoring. In this match Pelé
attempted to lob goalkeeper Ivo Viktor from the half-way line, only
narrowly missing the Czechoslovak goal.[65] Brazil went on to win the
match, 4–1. In the first half of the match against England, Pelé nearly
scored with a header that was saved by the England goalkeeper Gordon
Banks.[66] In the second half, he controlled a cross from Tostão before
flicking the ball to Jairzinho who scored the only goal.[67]

Mário Zagallo (Brazil's 1970 coach with Pelé in 2008). Zagallo said of
Pelé: "A kid in Sweden [1958 World Cup] gave signs of genius, and in
Mexico [1970 World Cup] he fulfilled all that promise and closed the
book with a golden key. And I had the privilege to see it all from close
Against Romania, Pelé scored two goals, with Brazil winning by a final
score of 3–2. In the quarterfinals against Peru, Brazil won 4–2, with Pelé
assisting Tostão for Brazil's third goal. In their semi-final match, Brazil
faced Uruguay for the first time since the 1950 World Cup final round
match. Jairzinho put Brazil ahead 2–1, and Pelé assisted Rivelino for the
3–1. During that match, Pelé made one of his most famous plays.[65]
Tostão passed the ball for Pelé to collect which Uruguay's goalkeeper
Ladislao Mazurkiewicz took notice of and ran off his line to get the ball
before Pelé. However, Pelé got there first and fooled Mazurkiewicz with
a feint by not touching the ball, causing it to roll to the goalkeepers left,
while Pelé went to the goalkeepers right. Pelé ran around the goalkeeper
to retrieve the ball and took a shot while turning towards the goal, but he
turned in excess as he shot, and the ball drifted just wide of the far

Brazil played Italy in the final at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico

City.[70] Pelé scored the opening goal with a header after outjumping
Italian defender Tarcisio Burgnich. Brazil’s 100th World Cup goal,
Pelé‘s leap of joy into the arms of teammate Jairzinho in celebrating the
goal is regarded as one of the most iconic moments in World Cup
history.[71] He then made assists on Brazil's third goal, scored by
Jairzinho, and the fourth finished by Carlos Alberto. The last goal of the
game is often considered the greatest team goal of all time because it
involved all but two of the team's outfield players. The play culminated
after Pelé made a blind pass that went into Carlos Alberto's running
trajectory. He came running from behind and struck the ball to
score.[72] Brazil won the match 4–1, keeping the Jules Rimet Trophy
indefinitely, and Pelé received the Golden Ball as player of the
tournament.[48][73] Burgnich, who marked Pelé during the final, was
quoted saying "I told myself before the game, he's made of skin and
bones just like everyone else — but I was wrong".[74]

Pelé's last international match was on 18 July 1971 against Yugoslavia

in Rio de Janeiro. With Pelé on the field, the Brazilian team's record was
67 wins, 14 draws and 11 losses.[61] Brazil never lost a match while
fielding both Pelé and Garrincha.[75]

Style of play

Pelé dribbling past a defender while playing for Brazil, May 1960.
Pelé has also been known for connecting the phrase "The Beautiful
Game" with football.[76] A prolific goalscorer, he was known for his
ability to anticipate opponents in the area and finish off chances with an
accurate and powerful shot with either foot.[34][77][78] Pelé was also a
hard-working team-player, and a complete forward, with exceptional
vision and intelligence, who was recognised for his precise passing, and
ability to link-up with teammates and provide them with

In his early career, he played in a variety of attacking positions.

Although he usually operated inside the penalty area as a main striker or
centre-forward, his wide range of skills also allowed him to play in a
more withdrawn role, as an inside forward or second striker, or out
wide.[65][79][82] In his later career, he took on more of a deeper
playmaking role behind the strikers, often functioning as an attacking
midfielder.[83][84][85] Pelé's unique playing style combined speed,
creativity, and technical skill with physical power, stamina, and
athleticism. His excellent technique, balance, flair, agility, and dribbling
skills enabled him to beat opponents with the ball, and frequently saw
him use sudden changes of direction and elaborate feints in order to get
past players, such as his trademark move, the drible da vaca.[65][82][86]
Another one of his signature moves was the paradinha, or little
stop.[note 3][87]

In spite of his relatively small stature, 5 feet 8 inches (1.73 m),[88] he

excelled in the air, due to his heading accuracy and
elevation.[77][80][86] Renowned for his bending shots, he was also an
accurate free-kick taker, and penalty taker, although he often refrained
from taking penalties, stating that he believed it to be a cowardly way to

Pelé was also known to be a fair and highly influential player, who stood
out for his charismatic leadership and sportsmanship on the pitch. His
warm embrace of Bobby Moore following the Brazil vs England game at
the 1970 World Cup is viewed as the embodiment of sportsmanship,
with The New York Times stating the image “captured the respect that
two great players had for each other. As they exchanged jerseys, touches
and looks, the sportsmanship between them is all in the image. No
gloating, no fist-pumping from Pelé. No despair, no defeatism from
Bobby Moore.”[91] Pelé also earned a reputation for often being a
decisive player for his teams, due to his tendency to score crucial goals
in important matches.[92][93][94]
Reception and legacy
"Pelé was one of the few who contradicted my theory: instead of 15
minutes of fame, he will have 15 centuries."

—Andy Warhol.[21]

"My name is Ronald Reagan, I'm the President of the United States of
America. But you don't need to introduce yourself, because everyone
knows who Pelé is."

—US President Ronald Reagan, greeting Pelé at the White House.[21]

Pelé is one of the most lauded players in history and is frequently ranked
the best player ever.[95][96][97] Among his contemporaries, Dutch star
Johan Cruyff stated; "Pelé was the only footballer who surpassed the
boundaries of logic."[21] Brazil's 1970 FIFA World Cup-winning
captain Carlos Alberto Torres opined; "His great secret was
improvisation. Those things he did were in one moment. He had an
extraordinary perception of the game."[21] Tostão, his strike partner at
the 1970 World Cup; "Pelé was the greatest – he was simply flawless.
And off the pitch he is always smiling and upbeat. You never see him
bad-tempered. He loves being Pelé."[21] His Brazilian teammate
Clodoaldo commented on the adulation he witnessed; "In some countries
they wanted to touch him, in some they wanted to kiss him. In others
they even kissed the ground he walked on. I thought it was beautiful, just

Pelé is the greatest player of all time. He reigned supreme for 20 years.
There's no one to compare with him.
— West Germany's 1974 World Cup-winning captain Franz
Former Real Madrid and Hungary star Ferenc Puskás stated; "The
greatest player in history was Di Stéfano. I refuse to classify Pelé as a
player. He was above that."[21] Just Fontaine, French striker and leading
scorer at the 1958 World Cup; "When I saw Pelé play, it made me feel I
should hang up my boots."[21] England's 1966 FIFA World Cup-
winning captain Bobby Moore commented: "Pelé was the most complete
player I've ever seen, he had everything. Two good feet. Magic in the
air. Quick. Powerful. Could beat people with skill. Could outrun people.
Only five feet and eight inches tall, yet he seemed a giant of an athlete
on the pitch. Perfect balance and impossible vision. He was the greatest
because he could do anything and everything on a football pitch. I
remember Saldanha the coach being asked by a Brazilian journalist who
was the best goalkeeper in his squad. He said Pelé. The man could play
in any position".[77] Former Manchester United striker and member of
England's 1966 FIFA World Cup-winning team Sir Bobby Charlton
stated; "I sometimes feel as though football was invented for this
magical player."[21] During the 1970 World Cup, when Manchester
United defender Paddy Crerand (who was part of the ITV panel) was
asked; "How do you spell Pelé?", he replied with the response; "Easy:

1969 Brazil postage stamp commemorating Pelé's landmark 1,000th
Since retiring, Pelé has continued to be lauded by players, coaches,
journalists and others. Brazilian attacking midfielder Zico, who
represented Brazil at the 1978, 1982 and 1986 FIFA World Cup, stated;
"This debate about the player of the century is absurd. There's only one
possible answer: Pelé. He's the greatest player of all time, and by some
distance I might add".[48] French three time Balon D'or winner Michel
Platini said; "There's Pelé the man, and then Pelé the player. And to play
like Pelé is to play like God." Joint FIFA Player of the Century,
Argentina's 1986 FIFA World Cup-winning captain Diego Maradona
stated; "It's too bad we never got along, but he was an awesome
player".[48] Prolific Brazilian striker Romário, winner of the 1994 FIFA
World Cup and player of the tournament; "It's only inevitable I look up
to Pelé. He's like a God to us".[48] Five-time FIFA Ballon d'Or winner
Cristiano Ronaldo said: "Pelé is the greatest player in football history,
and there will only be one Pelé", while José Mourinho, two-time UEFA
Champions League winning manager, commented; "I think he is
football. You have the real special one – Mr. Pelé."[98] Real Madrid
honorary president and former player, Alfredo Di Stéfano, opined: "The
best player ever? Pelé. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are both
great players with specific qualities, but Pelé was better".[99]

Pelé playing for New York Cosmos at Eden Gardens in Kolkata, India
with a sold out stadium of 80,000 in 1977.[100]
Presenting Pelé the Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award, former South
African president Nelson Mandela said; "To watch him play was to
watch the delight of a child combined with the extraordinary grace of a
man in full."[101] US politician and political scientist Henry Kissinger
stated, "Performance at a high level in any sport is to exceed the
ordinary human scale. But Pelé's performance transcended that of the
ordinary star by as much as the star exceeds ordinary
performance."[102] After a reporter asked if his fame compared to that
of Jesus, Pelé quipped, "There are parts of the world where Jesus Christ
is not so well known."[74]

Young visitors to the Pelé museum, opened in 2014, in Santos, Brazil

In 1999, the International Federation of Football History & Statistics
(IFFHS) voted Pelé the World Player of the Century. That same year,
the International Olympic Committee elected him the Athlete of the
Century. According to the IFFHS, Pelé is the most successful league
goal-scorer in the world, scoring 1281 goals in 1363 games, which
included unofficial friendlies and tour games. In 1999, Time magazine
named Pelé one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century.
During his playing days, Pelé was for a period the highest-paid athlete in
the world.[103] Pelé's "electrifying play and penchant for spectacular
goals" made him a star around the world. To take full advantage of his
popularity, his teams toured internationally.[34] During his career, he
became known as "The Black Pearl" (A Pérola Negra), "The King of
Football" (O Rei do Futebol), "The King Pelé" (O Rei Pelé) or simply
"The King" (O Rei).[6] In 2014, the city of Santos inaugurated the Pelé
museum – Museu Pelé – which displays a 2,400 piece collection of Pelé
memorabilia.[104] Approximately $22 million was invested in the
construction of the museum, housed in a 19th century mansion.[105]
Personal life
Relationships and children
Children of Pelé

A practicing Catholic, Pelé donated a signed jersey to Pope Francis.

Accompanied with a signed football from Ronaldo, it is located in one of
the Vatican Museums.[106]
Pelé has married three times, and has had several affairs, producing
several children. On 21 February 1966, Pelé married Rosemeri dos Reis
Cholbi.[107] They had two daughters and one son: Kelly Cristina (born
13 January 1967), who married Dr. Arthur DeLuca, Jennifer (b. 1978),
and their son Edson ("Edinho", b. 27 August 1970). The couple divorced
in 1982.[108] In May 2014, Edinho was jailed for 33 years for
laundering money from drug trafficking.[109] On appeal the sentence
was reduced to 12 years and 10 months.[110]

From 1981 to 1986, Pelé was romantically linked with TV presenter

Xuxa, which was influential in launching her career. She was 17 when
they started dating.[111] In April 1994, Pelé married psychologist and
gospel singer Assíria Lemos Seixas, who gave birth on 28 September
1996 to twins Joshua and Celeste through fertility treatments. The
couple divorced in 2008.[112]

Pelé had at least two more children from former affairs. Sandra
Machado, who was born from an affair Pelé had in 1964 with a
housemaid, Anizia Machado, fought for years to be acknowledged by
Pelé, who refused to submit to DNA tests.[113][114][115] Although she
was recognized by courts as his biological daughter based on DNA
evidence in 1993, Pelé never acknowledged his eldest daughter even
after her death in 2006, nor her two children, Octavio and
Gabriel.[114][115] Pelé also had another daughter, Flávia Kurtz, in an
extramarital affair in 1968 with journalist Lenita Kurtz. Flávia was
recognized by him as his daughter.[113]

At the age of 73, Pelé announced his intention to marry 41-year-old

Marcia Aoki, a Japanese-Brazilian importer of medical equipment from
Penápolis, São Paulo, whom he had been dating from 2010. They first
met in the mid-1980s in New York, before meeting again in 2008.[116]
They married in July 2016.[117]

In 1970, Pelé was investigated by the Brazilian military dictatorship for
suspected leftist sympathies. Declassified documents showed Pelé was
investigated after being handed a manifesto calling for the release of
political prisoners. Pelé himself did not get further involved within
political struggles in the country.[118]

In 1976, Pelé was on a Pepsi-sponsored trip in Lagos, Nigeria, when that

year's attempted Military Coup took place. Pelé was trapped in a hotel
together with Arthur Ashe and other tennis pros, who were participating
in the interrupted 1976 Lagos WCT tournament. Pelé and his crew
eventually left the hotel to stay at the residence of Brazil's ambassador as
they couldn't leave the country for a couple of days. Later the airport
was opened and Pelé left the country disguised as a pilot.[119][120]

In June 2013, he was criticized in public opinion for his conservative

views.[121][122] During the 2013 protests in Brazil, Pelé asked for
people to "forget the demonstrations" and support the Brazil national

In 1977, Brazilian media reported that Pelé had his right kidney
removed.[124] In November 2012, Pelé underwent a successful hip
operation.[125] In December 2017 Pelé appeared in a wheelchair at the
2018 World Cup draw in Moscow where he was pictured with Russian
President Vladimir Putin and Diego Maradona.[126] A month later he
collapsed from exhaustion and was taken to hospital.[126]

After football

Pelé at the White House on 10 September 1986, with U.S. President

Ronald Reagan and Brazil President José Sarney
In 1994, Pelé was appointed a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.[127] In
1995, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso appointed Pelé to
the position of Extraordinary Minister for Sport. During this time he
proposed legislation to reduce corruption in Brazilian football, which
became known as the "Pelé law."[128] Pelé left his position in 2001
after he was accused of involvement in a corruption scandal that stole
$700,000 from UNICEF. It was claimed that money given to Pelé's
company for a benefit match was not returned after it was cancelled,
although nothing was proven, and it was denied by UNICEF.[129][130]
In 1997, he received an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II at
a ceremony in Buckingham Palace.[131] Pelé also helped inaugurate the
2006 FIFA World Cup finals, alongside supermodel Claudia

Pelé, Brazil's Extraordinary Minister for Sport, with US President Bill

Clinton in Rio de Janeiro, 15 October 1997
In 1993, Pelé publicly accused the Brazilian football administrator
Ricardo Teixeira of corruption after Pelé's television company was
rejected in a contest for the Brazilian domestic rights to the 1994 World
Cup.[132] Pelé accusations led to an eight-year feud between the
pair.[133] As a consequence of the affair, the President of FIFA, João
Havelange banned Pelé from the draw for the 1994 FIFA World Cup in
Las Vegas. Criticisms over the ban were perceived to have negatively
affected Havelange's chances of re-election as FIFA's president in

Pelé has published several autobiographies, starred in documentary

films, and composed musical pieces, including the soundtrack for the
film Pelé in 1977.[134] He appeared in the 1981 film Escape to Victory,
about a World War II-era football match between Allied prisoners of
war and a German team. Pelé starred alongside other footballers of the
1960s and 1970s, with actors Michael Caine, and Sylvester
Stallone.[135] in 1969, Pelé starred in a telenovela called Os Estranhos,
about first contact with aliens. It was created to drum up interest in the
Apollo missions.[136] In 2001, had a cameo role in the satire film, Mike
Bassett: England Manager.[137]

Pelé at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, 2006

In November 2007, Pelé was in Sheffield, England to mark the 150th
anniversary of the world's oldest football club, Sheffield F.C.[138] Pelé
was the guest of honour at Sheffield's anniversary match against Inter
Milan at Bramall Lane.[138] As part of his visit, Pelé opened an
exhibition which included the first public showing in 40 years of the
original hand-written rules of football.[138] Pelé scouted for Premier
League club Fulham in 2002.[139] He made the draw for the
qualification groups for the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals.[140] On 1
August 2010, Pelé was introduced as the Honorary President of a
revived New York Cosmos, aiming to field a team in Major League
Soccer.[141] In August 2011, ESPN reported that Santos were
considering bringing him out of retirement for a cameo role in the 2011
FIFA Club World Cup, although this turned out to be false.[142]

Brazil President Lula and Pelé in commemoration of 50 years since the

first World Cup title won by Brazil in 1958, at the Palácio do Planalto,
The most notable area of Pelé's life since football is his ambassadorial
work. In 1992, he was appointed a UN ambassador for ecology and the
environment.[143] He was also awarded Brazil's Gold Medal for
outstanding services to the sport in 1995. In 2012, Pelé was awarded an
honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh for "significant
contribution to humanitarian and environmental causes, as well as his
sporting achievements".[144]

In 2009, Pelé assisted the Rio de Janeiro bid for the 2016 Summer
Olympics. In July 2009 he spearheaded the Rio 2016 presentation to the
Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa General
Assembly in Abuja, Nigeria.[145]

On 12 August 2012, Pelé was an attendee at the 2012 Olympic hunger

summit hosted by UK Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing
Street, London, part of a series of international efforts which have
sought to respond to the return of hunger as a high-profile global
issue.[146][147] Later on the same day, Pelé appeared at the closing
ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, following the
handover section to the next host city for the 2016 Summer Olympics,
Rio de Janeiro.[148]

Pelé with Vladimir Putin at the opening of the Confederations Cup 2017
in Saint Petersburg, Russia
In March 2016, Pelé filed a lawsuit against Samsung Electronics in the
United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois seeking
US$30 million in damages claiming violations under the Lanham Act
for false endorsement and a state law claim for violation of his right of
publicity.[149] The suit alleged, that at one point Samsung and Pelé
came close to entering into a licensing agreement for Pelé to appear in a
Samsung advertising campaign. Samsung abruptly pulled out of the
negotiations. The October 2015 Samsung ad in question, included a
partial face shot of a man who allegedly "very closely resembles" Pelé
and also a superimposed high-definition television screen next to the
image of the man featuring a "modified bicycle or scissors-kick", often
used by Pelé.[149]