From the beginnings of his name to just how he played his last pro video game for both teams, below are part facts about the Brazilian football star.

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After Brazil lost the 1950 human being Cup final to Uruguay, a 9 or 10-year-old Edson Arantes execute Nascimento, now much better known as Pelé, do a promise come his ravaged father. “I mental jokingly saying to him: ‘Don’t cry, dad — I’ll win the people Cup because that you,” Pelé recalled come in 2014. Eight years in 1958 later, however, his so-called joke came to be a reality when he won the very first of his record-breaking three human being Cup titles

Thus began Pelé's storied career, and by the time he play his final expert game in 1977, he’d netted over 1,280 career goals as part of Brazil’s Santos football Club and the brand-new York Cosmos. Back he’s now widely taken into consideration to be the best soccer player of every time, below are 10 things you could not know about Pelé:

He’s called after cutting board Edison

As Pelé described in a September 2014 tweet, his father João Ramos, a soccer player additionally known as Dondinho, and mother Dona Celeste called him Edson, after cutting board Edison. ”Electricity had actually just been presented to my hometown in Brazil as soon as I to be born,” composed the Três Corações native. First nicknamed “Dico” by his family, Pelé later described that the moniker through which he’s currently known worldwide “really bugged” him in ~ first.

“I was really proud that i was named after thomas Edison and wanted to be referred to as Edson,” he composed in a 2006 Guardian piece. “I thought Pelé sounded horrible. It to be a rubbish name. Edson sound so much more serious and also important.” back the sporting activities star added he “can never ever be 100 percent particular about the origin,” the most probable explanation is the the nickname was offered to that by classmates due to the fact that he mispronounced the name of among his dad’s soccer teammates: Vasco de Sao Lourenco, a goalkeeper affectionately well-known as "Bilé."

“So when someone said, "Hey, Pelé," I would certainly shout back and acquire angry. ~ above one occasion I punched a classmate due to the fact that of it and also earned a two-day suspension,” that wrote. “Now ns love the name — but earlier then it wound me up no end.”

He got an imaginative when he couldn’t bought a soccer round or shoes

Growing up in poverty, Pelé exercised his dribbling skills with a sock stuffed v rags as soon as his household couldn’t afford come buy him an actual football ball. As soon as he was 6, the family moved come a larger town in southern Brazil, where he shined shoes and also sold roasted peanuts exterior movie theatre to earn money for a soccer ball. Can not to afford shoes himself, he additionally frequently played barefoot, and also his friends eventually formed a team dubbed the Shoeless Ones. Later, barefooted gamings played in vacant lots ended up being known as “pelada,” thought to be named after Pelé.


Pelé (center, in yellow jersey) on the ball for Brazil during a team stage match versus Bulgaria at Goodison Park during the 1966 civilization Cup competition in Liverpool, England

Photo: arts Rickerby/The LIFE picture Collection via Getty Images

His very first contract was far from lucrative

At 15 year old, Pelé signed his first contract v Santos in 1956, earning simply $10 a month. Follow to ESPN, he offered his pay to buy his mom a gas stove, though their city didn’t haven’t the capacity to pipe gas into homes. Years later, the signed a three-year $7 million contract through the brand-new York Cosmos in 1975, making the the highest‐paid team athlete in the civilization at the time. The new York Times estimated that $2 million the the deal went to taxes because that the indigenous Brazilian, however. “He will pay his very own taxes, similar to every American,” Cosmos angry president and general manager Clive Toye defined in 1975, every the newspaper.

He’s a Brazilian nationwide treasure — literally

After Pelé led Brazil’s nationwide team to their an initial World Cup success in 1958, europe clubs such as genuine Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan and Manchester United started courting the climbing star. In order to prevent him from gift traded to foreign teams, Brazilian president Jânio Quadros ultimately had Pelé declared a national treasure in 1961.

“Well, first of every it to be an honor because that me. But I pay revenue tax choose anybody else,” he joked come Esquire in 2016. “I was invited — I had several proposals to play in Europe. For real Madrid, because that AC Milan, for Bayern Munich. However at that time, us didn't have too plenty of Brazilian players external the country. Ns was an extremely happy at my team, Santos. I didn't have actually the desire come play outside the country.”

He holds two Guinness human being Records

By the end of his career, Pelé had won three FIFA human being Cups through Brazil (in 1958, 1962 and also 1970), earning the the many wins by any kind of player. That course, that’s however one of the countless records he damaged on the football field. The 4 goals Pelé score in his 1956 professional debut only collection the stage for the 1,283 full goals he’d go on come rack up end the years. Over there is some debate over Guinness’ complete number, however, since multiple outlets reported the he scored more than 500 that those objectives in “unofficial friendlies and also tour games,” quite than in professional competition.


Pelé celebrates the victory after win the 1970 human being Cup ~ above June 21, 1970, in Città del Messico, Mexico

Photo: Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Henry Kissinger persuaded him to play in the U.S.

After Pelé retirement from the Brazilian nationwide team and Santos in 1974, former Secretary the State Henry Kissinger travel to Sao Paulo to convince him to return to gameplay because that the new York Cosmos. "He invite me to walk to the cafe v him, and also there he said, 'Listen. You recognize I'm from the unified States, and also I'm in politics there. Football is coming follow me there-they're play it in the schools. Would certainly you choose to help us promote football in the unified States?'” Pelé, that didn’t speak English at the time, recalled to Esquire in 2016. “And ns said, 'My God.'"

Prior to him signing a report $7 million, three-year contract with the new York Cosmos, Kissinger apparently sent the a telegram that read: “Should you decide to authorize a contract, ns am sure your continue to be in the United says will substantially add to closer ties between Brazil and the United states in the field of sports.”

He as soon as (temporarily) quit a war

Kissinger detailed in a 1999 Time article the both sides in Nigeria’s polite war referred to as a 48-hour cease-fire in 1967 so Pelé can play an exhibition enhance in the capital of Lagos. Santos' website elaborates the the region's military governor Samuel Ogbemudia declared a holiday and opened up a bridge so that both sides can watch Pelé’s 2-1 success over Nigeria.

“We to be asked to play a friendly enhance on Benin City, in the center of a polite War, yet Santos to be so beloved that they i agree on a ceasefire ~ above the matchday. It came to be known together the day that 'Santos stopped the war,'” Pelé tweeted in 2020. (In current years, however, some have disputed the level of the reported ceasefire.)

He was friends with Nelson Mandela

Pelé left a family members holiday to play in 2007’s “90 Minutes because that Mandela” charity match in respect of the southern African president’s 89th birthday. During a joint push conference, Pelé awarded Mandela an autographed jersey, i beg your pardon the latter referred to as a “priceless gift” he’d treasure because that the rest of his life.

“He was my hero, mine friend, and likewise a companion come me in our fight because that the people and also for human being peace,” Pelé tweeted following Mandela’s 2013 death, additionally calling the leader “one that the most influential people” in his life.


Pelévisits Olympic stadium in Barcelona on September 2, 2017, in Barcelona, Spain

Photo: Xavi Torrent/Getty pictures for Pele

He played for both teams in his last pro game

In October 1977, Pelé contended in his final skilled game in an exhibition match between the brand-new York Cosmos and Santos F.C. In prior of 77,000 spectators — including Muhammad Ali — at brand-new Jersey’s Giants Stadium. He play the an initial half that the video game for Santos, scoring one goal, and also then switched jerseys and played because that the Cosmos in the 2nd half. The Cosmos ultimately won the enhance with a final score the 2-1.

He to be knighted by Queen Elizabeth II

Despite no being of british descent, Queen Elizabeth II bestowed upon Pelé the honorary location of Knight command of the British realm (KBE) in 1997 because that his humanitarian work and also activism. Start in 1994, Pelé offered as the United nations Educational, scientific and cultural Organization’s Champion because that Sport and also a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, creating such projects as children in need fundraising in 1996, and the match of the Hearth, in 2000. “It will constantly stay in my memory,” that tweeted in 2020 that his honorary knighthood. “I give thanks to all the British world for their affection.”

Brad Witter is a new York City-based writer and also editor who specializes in popular music culture, celebrity and entertainment journalism.


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