Modified & Updated: 23 Sep 2023

pele waving to the camera

Pelé, often hailed as the “King of Football,” is a name that resonates with virtually every football enthusiast worldwide. Born as Edson Arantes do Nascimento in Brazil in 1940, Pelé’s life, career, and impact on football are as thrilling as a gripping novel. Let’s dive into the captivating journey of this phenomenal player with these 20 fascinating facts about Pelé.

Table of Contents

Pelé was Named after Thomas Edison

Pelé’s real name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento, named after the prolific inventor Thomas Edison. However, his friends at school mockingly called him “Pelé,” a mispronunciation of the name of the goalkeeper Bile, whom Pelé admired. Despite Pelé’s initial resistance, the name stuck, and the rest is history.

His Football Journey Began at an Early Age

Pelé’s love for football sprouted at a very young age. He could not afford a proper football as a child and used to kick a sock stuffed with newspaper around the streets of his hometown, Bauru.

His Early Career was in Indoor Football

Pelé actually started his football career playing futsal — a variant of football played indoors. His skills honed in the smaller, quicker game later informed his unique playing style on the larger field.

He Scored his First Professional Goal at Age 15

Pelé began his professional career with Santos FC when he was just 15. He scored his first professional goal in his debut match against Corinthians Santo Andre.

young pele in yellow jersey
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Pelé is the Youngest Player to Ever Score in a World Cup

Pelé made his World Cup debut in 1958 at the tender age of 17, making him the youngest player ever to score in the tournament. His performance in this tournament made him a global sensation overnight.

The Only Player to Win Three World Cups

Pelé’s stellar career boasts three World Cup titles. He is the only player in history to have won three FIFA World Cup tournaments, in 1958, 1962, and 1970.

Scoring Over a Thousand Goals

An awe-inspiring Pelé scored a whopping 1,281 goals in 1,363 games throughout his career. His scoring prowess and consistency were nothing short of remarkable.

Pelé – The Goal-Scoring Machine

In November 1969, Pelé scored his 1,000th career goal, an event so anticipated in Brazil that it’s referred to as “O Milésimo” — The Thousandth.

Pele’s “Beautiful Game” Philosophy

Pelé is famous for referring to football as the “beautiful game.” He believed in playing the game with skill, flair, and an unadulterated love for the sport.

Retirement and Comeback

Pelé announced his retirement from professional football in 1974 but came out of retirement a year later to play for the New York Cosmos in the North American Soccer League, bringing unprecedented attention to the sport in the United States.

Final Match Between Two Teams

In a unique farewell match, Pelé played one half for each team — New York Cosmos and Santos. He scored a goal for Cosmos, showcasing his ageless magic on the field one last time.

A Unanimous Choice for FIFA’s Player of the Century

In 1999, Pelé was voted as the FIFA Player of the Century along with Argentine legend Diego Maradona, highlighting his enduring legacy in football history.

Pele signing a shirt for a brazilian fan
Image from Flickr

Brazil’s Extraordinary Moratorium

In 1961, the Brazilian government declared Pelé an official national treasure to prevent him from being transferred out of the country. This unusual move underlines the importance Pelé holds in his home nation.

Pelé and Music

Pelé is not only a football legend but also a talented musician. He has recorded several albums and written numerous songs, including a soundtrack for a film about his life.

His Passion for Charity

After retiring from professional football, Pelé devoted himself to various charitable endeavors. He is a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF and has championed many other philanthropic causes.

His Influence on Video Games

Pelé’s influence extends to the world of video games as well. He was the face of some popular football video games and has been featured as a character in numerous others.

The Man of Many Accolades

Pelé’s list of accolades is extensive. From being named Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee to receiving an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II, his awards reflect his standing in the sporting world.

His Stint as Brazil’s Sports Minister

In 1995, Pelé was appointed Brazil’s Extraordinary Minister for Sport. During his tenure, he proposed legislation to reduce corruption in Brazilian football, known as the “Pelé law.”

pele and lula at conference
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Pelé’s Net Worth

Despite retiring over four decades ago, Pelé remains one of the wealthiest footballers in the world, with a net worth estimated to be around $100 million.

The Everlasting Legacy of Pelé

Pelé’s impact goes far beyond his impressive stats. His influence on the sport, his charismatic personality, and his love for the game continues to inspire new generations.

Final Word

In conclusion, Pelé’s journey is a testament to his talent, tenacity, and the transformative power of football. As the “King of Football,” he continues to rule the hearts of millions of fans around the world, and these 20 facts about Pelé only scratch the surface of his inspiring story.

Through this article, we hope you discovered some fascinating facts about this footballing legend, and perhaps, it rekindled a deeper appreciation for the beautiful game Pelé so dearly loved.