COLOMBO– Maradona, Zico, Platini, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe, and whatnot. The list goes endless… In the annals of soccer, there is only one legend, one King of Football, and that is incomparable Pele, who is considered the greatest soccer player ever to live and the rest all are princes of football.
Pele who represented the Brazil national football team as a forward from 1957 to 1971 is the only player in history to have won three FIFA World Cup titles, in 1958, 1962, and 1970. He remains Brazil’s leading scorer with 77 goals in 92 games. Neymar who idolizes Pele now equaled Pele’s record of 77 goals.
He also said that it was Pele who played wearing number 10, made that number popular for star players in the world to use it. Until then, it was just a number, and Pele changed football which was just a sport into art and entertainment.
What are the uniqueness and tactical brilliance which the ‘Black Pearl’ possess to earn a place in soccer history? In his 20 year- odd career, Pele, the magical football star undoubtedly displayed an exceptional dribbling skills, goal-scoring prowess, remarkable speed, creativity, athleticism, ball-controlling abilities, iconic bicycle kicks including penalty kicks and Jumping headers as well as an uncanny ability to work his way out of almost any situation with sheer skill and physical power. Charismatic traits, indeed.
Pele is the youngest footballer to have ever scored a goal in the men’s FIFA World Cup in 1958. At the age of 17, he played his first game in the World Cup finals in Sweden. Also, he was the youngest to score a hat-trick in the World Cup against France in the semifinal. He was nicknamed O Rei (The King) following this tournament.
In the second FIFA World Cup 1962, Pele’s incredible vision guided the defending world champions, Brazil to defeat Czechoslovakia 3 -1 in the final.
The 1970 World Cup in Mexico marked a triumphant return to glory for Pelé and Brazil. It was Pele’s last World Cup match where he scored four goals in the tournament in style including one in the final to give Brazil a 4-1 victory over formidable Italy. He too made several important assists, earning himself the Golden Ball award for his play
Pele’s goal-scoring record is truly astounding and it justified why the Brazilian legend is the ‘King of Football”. He holds Guinness world records for the most career goals (1,283 goals in 1,363 games) and is the youngest winner of a FIFA World Cup. He also has the world record for hat tricks (scoring 3 goals in one game).
In 1961, the Brazilian government declared Pele an ‘Official National Treasure’. The government did this to prevent him from being transferred out of the country by European clubs.
Pelé received many awards and plaudits including the FIFA World Cup Best Young Player in 1958, FIFA World Cup Golden Ball (Best Player) in 1970. He was honoured with the title of Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee as well as Pelé was named FIFA’s “Co-Player of the Century” in 1999, along with Argentine Diego Maradona and the Time magazine named Pele one of the Most Important People of the 20th Century.
After his retirement from soccer in 1974, Pele played a couple of years for ‘New York Cosmos’ to promote football in the United States of America.
Most of the fans are only aware of one side of Pele as a worldwide ambassador for football. His other side too was equally noteworthy as Pele indulged in social activism and various charitable causes for the sake of humanity. He founded his own charitable organization, the Pelé Foundation, which endeavours to empower impoverished and disenfranchised children from around the globe. He gave voice to the poor, to the black community and visibility to Brazil.
Truly, Pele’s accomplishments on the soccer field will never be equaled. Pele once reckoned “I was born to play football, just like Beethoven was born to write music and Michelangelo was born to paint”. French three-time Ballon d’Or winner Michel Platini made a succinct compliment: “There’s Pelé the man, and then Pelé the player. And to play like Pelé is to play like God.”
Like what Don Bradman to Cricket and Mohammed Ali to Boxing, Pele is to soccer. His accomplishments on the soccer field will never be equaled.
There is only one Pele, but he is no more and his name will eternally remain forever!
May flights of Angels sing thee to thy rest- Pix Indian Express and Guardian