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Brazilian Footballer Pele

Full Name: Edson Arantes do Nascimento
Birth Date: 23/10/1940
Birth Place: Tres Coracoes
Birth Nation: Brazil
Nationality: Brazilian
Position: Forward

International Caps: 92
International Goals: 77
Teams Played For: Santos, New York Cosmos
Team Honours: World Cup (1958, 62, 70)
World Club Championship (1962, 63)
Sao Paulo State Championship (1956, 58, 60, 61, 62, 64, 56, 67, 68)

Individual Honours: South American Player of the Year (1973)

IOC Athlete of the Century (1999) (even though he was the only one of the 5 athletes short-listed never to of appeared at the Olympics - the others being Muhammed Ali, Carl Lewis, Michael Jordan and Mark Spitz)

Brazil's Gold Medal for services to sport Honourary British Knighthood

Possibly the greatest player of all time, he himself says, "I was born for soccer, just as Beethoven was born for music." Even in the great Brazil side of 1970 Pele stood out as the best.

Pele's father, Dondhinho, was a footballer too, though not to the level of his son. The family was a poor one and, with his father earning so little from football, Pele's mother tried to steer him away from the game.

But a former Brazilian international, de Brito, spotted him and began to coach the young Pele. At the age of 14 Pele signed for Bauru Athletic Club juniors before at 16, despite the knee injury that plagued his career, he became a Santos player.

He received his first cap for Brazil when he was 17 but went to the World Cup of 1958, in Sweden, with just that one cap to his name. Suffering from injury Pele had to wait till the 3rd and final group match, versus the Soviet Union, to make his World Cup debut.

In a 2-0 win Pele hit the post and set up Brazil's second goal to send them into the quarter-finals. There they faced Wales and Pele scored the match's only goal. The semi-finals saw Pele score a hat-trick against France to send Brazil into the final to face the hosts, Sweden.

The final was to showcase Pele's skills to the world as Brazil ran out 5-2 winners to claim their first World Cup. Pele scored two, including one where he controlled the ball on his thigh, flicked it over his head then turned to volley it into the back of the net.

By the time of the 1962 World Cup finals Brazil were acknowledged as the best side in the world and went into the tournament as massive favourites to win. Brazil won their opening match 2-0, with Pele scoring a brilliant individual effort, beating four players before slotting the ball past the goalkeeper.

The following game (a 0-0 draw with Czechoslovakia) He tore a thigh muscle, ending his participation. Despite losing their best player Brazil went on to win the tournament for the second time.

After the tournament the big European clubs offered massive amounts of money to Santos in an attempt to buy Pele but the Brazilian Government named him a 'National Treasure' to block his transfer.

In the 1966 World Cup in England it was even worse for Pele as Brazil failed to make it past the first round and he was, quite literally, kicked off the park by Portugal (of course anyone who watched the 2006 World Cup will of seen that the Portugese can still be physical when neccessary).

In the first game he scored from a free kick as Brazil beat Bulgaria 2-0, but, with Pele missing through injury, the Magyars of Hungary won a shock victory in the second match. A half fit Pele was brought back into the team for the third and final group stage match with Portugal even though he was obviously not fully fit. But an horrendous and cynical challenge (which the referee, George McCabe amazingly failed to see as a sending off offence!!) by Morais forced the great Brazilian to be helped from the field in obvious pain.

Though it must be mentioned he wasn't afraid to dish it out himself, in 1965, in a 'friendly' game, Pele intentionally broke the leg of a West German player Kiesman. In 1968 while playing in a match for Santos against Cruzeiro he broke Procopio's leg, and in the 1970 World Cup he elbowed Uruguay's Fontes in the semi-final.

Brazil were out after Portugal went on to win 3-1 in a manner that left a bad taste in the mouth (again one is reminded of the 2006 World Cup!). Pele left England vowing never to appear in another World Cup.

The following year Pele got the two sides in the Nigerian Civil War to agree a ceasefire! The antagonists agreed a 48 hour ceasefire so they could go and watch Pele (and Santos) play in a friendly match in Lagos.

Fortunately, for the world of football, by 1970 Pele had changed his mind and lined up alongside the likes of Jairzinho, Rivelino and Tostao in arguably the greatest team of all time. This time the tournament was held in Mexico and they immediately got off to a flying start with a 4-1 thrashing of Czechoslovakia, despite conceding an early goal to the European team. Pele scored the second goal.

Their second match was against the current World Cup holders, England, in a classic match. With a certain goal denied by possibly the greatest save of all time, by Gordon Banks, from a Pele header the teams were split by a single goal, scored by Jairzinho and set up by Pele.

Pele scored twice as Brazil beat Romania 3-2 to go to the next round where they beat Peru 4-2, before defeating Uruguay 3-1 in the semi finals.

The final saw them face Italy with both teams looking for their third World Cup win and the chance to keep the Jules Rimet trophy permanently. Italy suffered a crushing 4-1 defeat, with Pele scoring one and setting up two more, as Brazil played them off the pitch.

Pele retired from international football after the World Cup but carried on playing for Santos for a few more years until in 1974, at the age of 33 he called time on his glittering career. Santos retired the number 10 shirt in recognition that they could never replace him.

In 1975 a $4.5 million offer from new York Cosmos tempted the great Brazilian out of retirement to play in the fledgling soccer league.

In 1977 he finally retired completely from the game and became a sporting ambassador. Pele has since spent time as Brazil's Minister for Sport (leaving after being accused of involvement in a bribery scandal) and endorses numerous products from impotence cures to Puma and Pepsi-Cola. In 2002 Fulham persuaded him to scout for them, though how successful he was as a scout is difficult to judge.

Pele's son, Edson Cholbi Nascimento, an ex-goalkeeper for Santos, was arrested along with about 50 other people after an eight-month investigation into a cocaine trafficking operation in the port city of Santos.

Pele was the first sports figure to have his own video game - Pele's Soccer on the Atari 2600.

Pele is the youngest player to of ever played in a World Cup final at the age of 17 years and 239 days.

In 2002 he messed up the finish to the Brazilian Formula 1 Grand Prix by failing to wave the chequered flag until after the race winner, Michael Schumacher, had crossed the line.

Pele is claimed to of scored 1281 goals from 1363 matches - a world record.

In 2005 Pele sent the dying George Best a signed football with the words 'from the second best player in the world'. He always called Best 'the greatest footballer in the world'.

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