Why Pelé Will Remain The King of Football
While many of us are still basking in the glory of Lionel Messi’s World Cup win at the age of 35, it’s important to take a step back and remember the legendary Pelé (also known as O Rei or The King) who passed away on 29th December, 2022.
So why does Pelé remain The King of Football? To begin with, Pelé won three World Cups and still is the only footballer to ever achieve that feat. If that isn’t incredible enough, he won his first World Cup with Brazil in 1958 when he was only 17 years old! By the time Pelé turned 21, he had already scored 355 goals – you read that right – three-hundred-and-fifty-five!
But it wasn’t always smooth sailing for Pelé as a young boy. Born in a shack in Três Corações, Brazil, Pelé sharpened his skills on the streets using shoes for goalposts and a ball made from rags stuffed into a sock and tied with string. His family lived in poverty with just a horse and a cart. Many times, he would steal mangoes from trees just to survive. By day, he would go to school and spend his free time trying to earn money polishing shoes and selling peanuts.
His personal struggles notwithstanding, Pelé shone brightly in local football tournaments earning him a trial with iconic Brazilian club, Santos, when he was barely 15 years old. So good was Pelé with the ball that the 15-year-old was soon playing in the club’s senior team. He excelled as a teenager at Santos earning himself a call-up to the Brazilian national team in 1958 when he was just 17!
At the ’58 World Cup, Pelé scored 6 goals on his way to becoming one of the the youngest World Cup champions. He next went to the World Cup in 1962 but got injured in the first game and missed the rest of the tournament. Even without Pelé, Brazil managed to win the ’62 World Cup in Chile. When they went to the ’66 World Cup in England, it was one of his biggest disappointments as Brazil got knocked out in the first round. He even contemplated retirement from the Brazil team but was then convinced to return to the fold in time for the crowning moment of his career – the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.
Fittingly, Pelé scored or made half of Brazil’s goals at the 1970 World Cup with a star-studded team including Tostão, Jairzinho, Gérson, Roberto Rivellino and Carlos Alberto. And this team with its mesmerising artistry is recognised, even to this day, as one of the best teams to have ever played World Cup football.
As you can see, Pelé’s achievements are astounding. He not only overcame extraordinarily difficult circumstances, but also went on to become the undisputed King of Football! Viva O Rei! Long Live the King!
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