Ari and Isaac’s Super Sporty Spotlight: Pelé


Ari Shemesh and Isaac Shrader

On December 29, 2022, news of the death of one of football’s greatest players reached the disbelieving ears of many. After hearing the news, thousands of fans flooded the streets in mourning, with landmarks and stadiums displaying lights to honor the legend that was arguably the greatest footballer to ever grace the pitch. Pelé’s impact on the sport of football was matched by no one, and his skill in the game was beyond spectacular. In light of this terrible loss to the world of sports, let’s take a look back on the life of the most influential athlete who ever lived.

Born on October 23, 1940 in Três Corações, by the name of Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pelé was the eldest child of João Ramos and Dona Celeste. When he was a young boy, Pelé and his parents moved to Bauru. Pelé grew up in poverty due to João and Dona’s struggles to make money over the course of his childhood. Pelé would not let this stop him from enjoying the sport, so he developed his skills by kicking a rolled-up sock stuffed with rags around Bauru’s streets. 

At the age of 15, Pelé began his career playing for Santos FC in Brazil. Before he even turned 16, Pelé had scored the first professional goal of his career, and ended the season leading the league in goals. Said to be the future greatest player ever, Pelé certainly lived up to the expectations that surrounded him. Pelé was recruited to the Brazilian national football team for the 1958 World Cup that was held in Sweden. Pelé left spectators speechless, displaying unearthly athleticism and skill. He would go on to score 3 goals in a win against France, then 2 more against Sweden. Pelé would go on to win 2 more World Cups with Brazil, scoring four goals in the 1970 victory in Mexico. 

Along with his record-holding three world cup championships, Pelé won many more awards over the course of his career. During his time on Santos FC, Pelé won 6 Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A titles, winning 5 of them from 1961 to 1965. Additionally, he won 10 Cameonato Paulista titles, 2 Copa Libertadores titles, 2 Intercontinental Cup titles, and even 1 Intercontinental Supercup title. Pelé announced his retirement in 1974, but he decided to sign a $7 million contract with the New York Cosmos in 1975, in an attempt to promote the sport of football within the United States. In the third and final year of his contract, Pelé led the Cosmos to win the North American Soccer League Atlantic Conference title and the North American Soccer League Bowl. 

In addition to being a champion on the field, Pelé’s greatness did not end on the pitch. Hailed a national treasure by Brazil’s president, Pelé was an iconic and inspiring figure, and his superstar status allowed him to change the world around him. Pelé was known for his support for those in poverty, having come from humble beginnings himself, and always sought to promote welfare for those less fortunate. Pelé also helped to promote football, and tear down the corruption within the sport, speaking out against the Brazilian Football Confederation. Pelé always petitioned for peace in his country and others, and even caused a ceasefire in the Nigerian Civil War when he came to the country to play. 

Other than football, Pelé was most known for his work as an ambassador and philanthropist. Pelé worked for UNICEF and the United Nations, petitioning for environmental awareness and humanitarian rights. Pelé was also involved in charitable works by supporting countless charities, auctioning off his collections to raise money, and establishing the Pelé Foundation, which helps impoverished children around the world. 

Pelé will always be remembered as more than a football player, as his effect on the world was monumental and his mastery of the sport was unmatched. Pelé inspired and changed countless lives, from his tough childhood in poverty, to becoming a global phenomenon that changed the direction of history. Pelé’s life should be used as inspiration for everyone, to show that it does not matter where a person begins, with hard work and perseverance, a single life can change the world.