#RespectYourElders: Edson Arantes do Nascimento, KBE, 79, is a retired Brazilian soccer player who played as a forward. He’s considered by many to be the greatest soccer player of all time. Around the world, he’s known as Pelé.
Pelé was born in Três Corações, Brazil. His father, a soccer player known as Dondinho, and his wife originally named their boy after the American inventor Thomas Edison. At school, his friends nicknamed him Pelé. The name stuck, much to his initial dismay.
The young boy learned how to play soccer thanks to his father. He grew up in poverty, so he and his friends often practiced by kicking around a sock stuffed with newspaper. Pelé competed in youth leagues, and by the age of 15, he signed to the Brazilian soccer club Santos FC. One year later, he was the top scorer and he took his skills international.
Pelé got called up to play for Brazil’s national team in the 1958 World Cup. That year’s cup was the first to receive international televised coverage. Pelé’s performance in the final match of Brazil vs. Sweden in Stockholm’s Rasunda stadium shocked the world. The sixteen-year-old scored two goals in a 5-2 win for Brazil. Pelé was the youngest athlete to play in a World Cup at that time. The rising star won two more World Cups with Brazil in 1962 and 1970. The legendary athlete is known for his ability to score, excellent handling skills, vision of the game and improvisational techniques.
In 1974, Pelé announced his retirement, but the following year announced he’d play in the North American Soccer League for the New York Cosmos. His career officially ended in 1977 in a friendly exhibition match between the Cosmos and his old team Santos—he played for both teams that game. When the final whistle blew, Pelé’s teammates hoisted him on their shoulders and paraded around the stadium while tens of thousands of fans cheered him on. He retired with a world record of 1,281 goals in 1,363 games.
After his retirement, Pelé stayed busy with other projects. He appeared in several movies and wrote multiple memoirs of his life and career. Pelé also won countless awards including the International Peace Award, Olympic Athlete of the Century and FIFA Player of the Century to name a few. Now, at 79, no one has forgotten how much the star accomplished.
Less than a month ago on Nov. 19, soccer fans celebrated 50 years since Pelé scored his 1,000th goal. He credits his career for giving him the ability to do what he loves.
“Success is no accident,” Pelé once said. “It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”