Icon of the week: Pelé


      There are few athletes who can claim to be the best worldwide, and fewer still who can claim that they are so good at a sport that they are its official global ambassador. Pelé can claim all that and more about Soccer. Born Edson Arantes de Nascimento in October 1940, Pelé was not born into a rich family. Unable to afford a soccer ball, Pelé’s parents stuffed rags into an old sock and gave it to him to practice with. At age six, Pelé often skipped school to shine shoes, so he could afford a soccer ball. He started to play barefoot soccer with his friends and during this time came up with moves that he later became famous for on the field. During fourth grade Pelé’s school principal caught him skipping school to play soccer and Pelé was expelled. At age eleven  Pelé met one of Brazil’s top soccer players Waldemer de Brito. He trained Pelé in secret and the next year Brito took him to a local junior club called Baquinho. Pelé impressed everyone with his skills and was soon the star of Brazilian junior soccer.

       When Pelé was fifteen, Brito took him  to the directors of the top club team Santos. Brito told the directors “This boy will be the greatest soccer player in the world” (Notable Sports Figures). His first game and Pelé already scored which raised his salary from $0 to $60 a month. By his second season Pelé began to score from any position on the field, and on 1957 he was picked for the National Team. By 1958, Pelé had scored 87 goals and assisted over a 100 more. Pelé did more than just score goals; he took Brazil to the top. While Brazil loved soccer, they had never won a world championship. With Pelé leading the  team they went all the way to the finals and won their first World Cup against Sweden 5-2, with Pelé scoring two of the goals.

       Pelé was still a teenager when he solidified himself as the best player in the world. Even when he was in the army he still played on the national team and Santos. No player had ever been offered more than a $100,000 to play but with a record of 127 goals European teams offered him millions to join. However Santos refused to trade Pelé, and president Janio Quadros declared Pelé “a national treasure” who could not be exported. With the jersey number 10 Pelé never played for any team other than Santos and the Brazilian national squad. By age 20 Pelé had scored 400 goals. He became the first soccer player to become a millionaire, and at the age of thirty four he announced his retirement. His final record was 1,280 goals in 1,362 games.

       A classic rags to riches story, even while retired Pelé is still an inspiration to many. He exposed many  people and countries to the beautiful game, and is overall one of the greatest sport icons there is and will be.

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