Edson Arantes do Nascimento (born 23 October 1940) popularly known as Pele, is a retired Brazilian footballer who played football professionally for 21 years. During those years, Pele established himself as the best in the world, and to date, only a very few players have carried the same momentum as Pele did during his football days. Pele is regarded by pundits as one of the best players in the history of football. From his youth to his retirement, Pele was a sight to behold on the pitch. Even after his exit from the pitch, Pele still remains a noteworthy figure in football as his performance is often used as a sort of benchmark for young stars dominating football in the modern age. In this article on Pele biography facts, childhood, career and personal life, we’ll review the life of the football legend
Pele’s Biography Facts, Age, Quick Info
Here are some quick facts that you need to know about the retired Brazilian football legend.
- Full Name: Edson Arantes do Nascimento
- Nicknames: Pele, Dico
- Date of Birth: 23 October 1940
- Age: 81 years old
- Place of Birth: Três Corações, Brazil
- Nationality: Brazilian
- Zodiac sign: Libra
- Height: 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)
- Weight: 73 kg
- Father: João Ramos do Nascimento
- Mother: Celeste Arantes
- Siblings: Zeca Nascimento (brother), Maria Lúcia Nascimento (sister)
- Wife: Marcia Aoki (married 2014)
- Sons: Edson Cholbi Nascimento, Joshua Nascimento
- Daughters: Sandra Regina Arantes do Nascimento, Kelly Cristina Nascimento, Flávia Christina Kurtz Nascimento, Celeste Nascimento, Jennifer Nascimento, Sandra Machado
Pele’s Early Life & Childhood
Edson Arantes do Nascimento is the eldest of two children born on 23 October 1940, to Dondinho and Celeste Arantes in Três Corações located in Brazil. Pele whose father was a footballer grew up in a poverty affected area, precisely in Bauru in Brazil. He was named after the renowned inventor, Thomas Edison. His parents decided to remove the ‘i’ in his name. But mistakes made in his birth certificate showed his name as Edison.
Edson Arantes got the moniker ‘Pele’ after he mispronounced the name of a player he adored, goalkeeper of Vasco da Gama, Bilé. After he repeatedly mispronounced the name, he was named Pele, and despite efforts to make his peers stop calling his nickname, they continued and thus the name stuck.
Pele was trained to play football by his father. But because he could not afford a ball, he placed socks in newspaper and attached it a string or grapefruit. As he grew Pele joined local football teams such as Bauru Athletic Club juniors, where he went on to win two Sao Paulo Youth Championship. He played in various local football competitions against adults and in one of those competitions, despite concerns that he was too young, Pele dominated and thus ended up as the tournament top scorer.
Pele’s Professional Football Career
Santos FC (1956–1974)
- Appearances: 638
- Goals: 619
Pele’s coach at youth team Bauru Athletic Club juniors, Waldemar de Brito, took 15 years old Pele to a tryout for Santos FC. Brito told Santos executive that Pele will be the greatest player in the world. Pele convinced Santos coach during the tryout and he signed a contract with the club. Santos prided Pele as a star to the media and he confirmed that by his performance.
Following the 1962 World Cup, where Pele was amazingly brilliant, top European clubs such as Real Madrid tried to sign him. Inter Milan succeeded in getting a regular contract with him, but following the intense protest of Santos fan, former owner of Inter Milan, Angelo Moratti tore the contract following the request of Santos coach. Pele’s popularity was so much that the government, especially, ex-President, Jânio Quadro declared Pele a national treasure, so as to prevent him from bing transferred away from Brazil.
He earned his first trophy with Santos in 1958, the Campeonato Paulista. He finished as the tournament top scorer with 58 goals, a record which has not been broken till date. He continued in top form, helping Santos claim several trophies. In 1962, he won the first most prestigious title in South America, the Copa Libertadores. He went on to win the title the next year, but following the 1964 Copa Libertadores, Santos began experiencing a decline in form but Pele’s form remained intact. Despite the fact that Pele was not playing in top European leagues, his fame was widely proclaimed. In 1967, at the height of the Civil war in Nigeria, a ceasefire was announced for 48 hours, just to watch Pele play an exhibition game in Lagos, Nigeria.
New York Cosmos (1975–1977)
- Appearances: 56
- Goals: 31
After playing for 19 seasons for Santos, he retired from Brazilian club football in 1974, but two years later, he went on to play for New York Cosmos in the North American Soccer League (NASL). Pele’s presence in America increased interest in football in America. While he played for Cosmos, he played in exhibition matches in various countries such as in Lebanon, weeks before the Civil war began. He played for Nejmeh against the Lebanese league stars. About 40,000 gathered to watch the game. In his final season at Cosmos, he led his team to win the NASL championship. As he decided to retire from football, an exhibition match was held between Santos and Cosmos in front of a sold-out crowd at the Giants stadium.
Pele’s International Career
Brazil National Team (1957–1971)
- Appearances: 77
- Goals: 92
At the age of 16, Pele earned his first international goal and thus became Brazil youngest goalscorer, a record he still holds. At the 1958 World Cup, Pele was the youngest in the tournament and had performed brilliantly helping Brazil trash Sweden 5-1 in the final. He became the youngest player to play in the final of a world cup and was named the tournament’s best young player. He was granted the no. 10 jersey in the tournament following disorganisation which led FIFA to hand out jersey numbers.
At the 1959 South American Championship, he was in amazing form as he emerged the best and top scorer in the tournament. In the 1962 World Cup, he was in astounding form as he led Brazil to another World Cup title. In the 1966 World Cup, Brazil was not successful, but Pele who was in amazing form became the first player to score in three successive World Cup tournaments. In a game against Portugal which Brazil lost, Pele was subject to fouls, but the referee did not send the player off, which led him to declare he’ll no longer play football again, a decision he later rescinded.
In the 1970 World Cup, Pele who initially refused to play in the tournament led Brazil to victory once again. In the final of the tournament, Pele was involved in what is known as the greatest team goal history. He was awarded the Golden ball title. He played his last International game against Yugoslavia in Rio de Janeiro in 1971.
Pele’s Personal Life, Wife, Marriages
Pele has been unsuccessful in two marriages. He married Rosemeri dos Reis Cholb in February 1966. The couple who divorced in 1982, gave birth to three children. The Union’s only son, Edson Cholbi Nascimento, a former goalkeeper was convicted of money laundering from drug trafficking and was sentenced to 33 years in prison, which was later reduced to 12 years. In 1994, Pele got married to Assíria Lemos Seixas, and they gave birth to twins in 1996. In 2008, they divorced. In 2016, he got married to Marcia Aoki.
Pele is said to be the father to Sandra Machado, the daughter of a housemaid, who Pele had relations with. Pele refused to submit to DNA testing and also refused to acknowledge that he was her father even after her death in 2006. Courts, however, ruled that he is her father. In 1970, the Brazilian Military dictatorship investigated him for sympathies towards the leftist.
In 1976, a coup occurred in Nigeria and Pele was in the country on a trip which was sponsored by Pepsi. He went on to stay at the residence of the Brazilian ambassador before he left the country disguised in pilot’s clothing.
Pele’s right kidney was removed in 1977. In 2019, Pele had urinary tract infection.
In 2020, his son, Edson, revealed he could no longer walk.
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