The soccer realm loses its ‘King’: A tribute

The soccer legend will always be an inspiration to fans, admirers, youngsters, and corporates alike. Here are ‘10’ learnings and some interesting facts from his life.

“I hope we will play soccer together in the sky.”

This was an emotional parting statement made by Pele after the demise of Argentina legend and friend Diego Maradona in November 2020.

The statement today has sadly come true.

The ‘King’ passed away at the age of 82 in Brazil today after a long battle with cancer.

Pele born Edson Arantes do Nascimento on 23 October 1940, mesmerized the globe with his magical feet. All great players in soccer are (and will always be) measured against this Brazilian who made the world stop and watch his transcendent play.

As young kids growing up, we all would have watched the black-and-white footage of a teenager tearing apart the best defenders in the world.

Here are some life lessons from the legend that will always be an inspiration to fans, admirers, and corporates alike:

Start somewhere, be who you are:

Taking that first step is important. As a child Pele could not afford shoes for himself, so he started playing football barefoot. He and his friends eventually formed a team called the Shoeless Ones. He accepted his limitations yet enhanced and kept working on what he was good at.

To make money for a soccer ball, Pelé helped his uncle sell wood and sold peanuts and shined shoes outside movie theatres.

Shape misfortune into gain:

Disadvantages didn’t stop Pelé from making his dream come true. He wanted to be a top soccer player. He skipped school to practice soccer in the fields, he played the game with his neighbors on the streets and in this rough soccer environment developed many of his feints and unconventional dribbling manoeuvres.

Keep your promise:

In 1950, Brazil lost the World Cup final to Uruguay. Pelé saw that his father was crying. He went up to him and said, “Don’t worry. One day I will win it.”

By the end of his career, Pele had won three FIFA World Cups playing for Brazil, the most wins of the World Cup by any player ever.

Age is only a number:

Pele signed for Santos at the age of 15 and proceeded to score four goals on his debut against FC Corinthians.

As a 17-year-old, Pele took the sport by storm as he stamped his class on the 1958 FIFA World Cup to help Brazil win its maiden world title.

Never be complacent:

The Brazil and Santos star wasn’t someone who was satisfied by scoring just one goal. He scored 92 hat tricks, four goals on 31 occasions, five goals on six occasions and he once scored eight in a single match.

According to FIFA’s official website, Pele scored 1,281 goals in 1,363 games.

Ginga: Never forget your roots

Ginga is a spirit Brazilians are born with; it’s a walk, a talk, a way of life, and a vital ingredient to being Brazilian. It comes naturally to so many as it’s part of everyday life. Pele made this spirit integrate seamlessly into his soccer skills with his ‘bicycle kick’ during a game between Brazil and Belgium in 1968. It was a stunning moment for fans of the sport. Pele was the man responsible for its popularisation.

Pelé wouldn’t have been Pelé, had he given up on Ginga. He valued his culture, his traditions and heritage as a gift, and never tried to emulate others.

There is no substitute for hard work:

Pelé once said, “I don’t believe there is such a thing as a ‘born’ soccer player. Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”

Be humble:

Despite basking in glory, Pelé kept living a down-to-earth life in Santos. He would share a guest house with other players and cycle around the city.

Pass it on:

Pelé always tried to pass on his best to the other players and told them what he thought was important in his life.

Stick to core values:

After 20 years of a remarkable career, he hung up his boots and became an active philanthropist and a humanitarian. He used his success to help raise money for humanitarian causes. In his playing days, a cease-fire was even declared in warring Nigeria when Pele went to play in Lagos. That says it all.

Some interesting facts:

Pelé a national treasure: In 1961, the Brazilian government declared Pelé a national treasure to prevent foreign football clubs from taking him out of the country.

Pelé Day: He scored his 1000th goal on 19 November 1969, causing the day to be simply known as Pelé Day in Santos.

The Showman: Pelé loved music and even recorded an album with legendary Brazilian singer Elis Regina. He also acted in a handful of movies, making him a pop star as well.

Pelé on penalty:  To purists, a penalty shoot-out is like a lottery.  Pele once said that “a penalty is a cowardly way to score.”

Cosmos Club: Pelé left Santos in 1974. He played his final years at a club called Cosmos in New York. It was the only team he played for other than Santos and Brazil’s national side.

Never a Captain: Pelé was never made a team captain.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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