Pele is a name no soccer fan can do without, and the man is touted to be the best soccer player the world ever saw.
Pele did not have the world handed over to him on a silver platter, he worked his way sweat and blood to the upper echelons of sports persons.
What is it that had the young man get back onto his feet every time he was tackled to the ground?
What inspired him to take no notice of buffeted bones in his body, and return to the soccer field at the earliest?
The answer to the questions posed is something that you must experience to believe. When your work is not just work but the element that defines you, and when you derive satisfaction that is greater than any pain that can be inflicted on you, nothing else matters, and you plough on.
Pele Zero to hero Story
Pele was born Edson Arantes Do Nascimento on 3 October 1940. His father was a soccer player who was forced to retire from the game when he fractured his leg.
Young Pele grew up in poverty, and used to polish shoes to help contribute to the family income. The boy showed great interest for, and talent in, soccer and was playing for a local minor league club when he got his first break.
The 11-year-old Pele caught the eye of Waldemar de Brito, a premier player of the nation. Brito is said to have presented Pele to skeptical directors at Santos, boldly stating that Pele would be the greatest soccer player in the world. Whether or not he truly believed in his passionate statement at the time he made it remains immaterial.
Pele proved himself to Santos when, at the age of 16, he scored a goal in his very first mainstream match, which was against Corinthians FC.
The world began to sit up and pay attention when a 17-year-old Pele scored a whopping 6 goals during the 1958 World Cup, thereby leading the Brazil National Team to victory. Brazil won its first World Cup that year.
With word of his brilliant performances spreading like wildfire, and a wide range of sports clubs showing unmasked interest in having Pele play for them, Brazil declared its star soccer player a national treasure, thereby barring Pele from playing for any non-Brazilian club or corporation.
Pele was a vision when on the field, with his agile 5 ft. 8 inches frame swiftly running across the arena, his deft feet expertly dribbling the ball. Besides being hailed for his extraordinary command on the ball and powerful kicks, Pele also commanded admiration for his powerful head shots.
In 1962, Pele was unable to play alongside his team during World Cup as he sustained severe injuries during the first match of the tournament. However, in 1970, Pele led his team to win what would be the 3rd World Cup for his nation.
His goal was precious in more ways than one – not only was it Brazil’s 100th World Cup goal, but it was also a goal that was close to Pele’s heart as he had scored it with his head. Pele’s dad was adept at headshots, and is reported to have made 5 headshot goals in a single match, and the move was special for Pele.
Pele’s score board is stunning. In all, the master soccer player has scored 1,280 goals, and is second only to Arthur Friedenreich, another Brazilian soccer player with 1,329 goals in his kitty. Pele’s average worked out to one goal at every international game. 92 hat tricks and 97 international goals are the statistics that place his at the top of his game, with his statistics being the highest ever.
After he retired, Pele returned to active soccer for a short span of 2 years to promote soccer in North America. He played in the North American Soccer League to attract the interest of millions of Americans towards the “beautiful game” of soccer.
He played an exhibition game between Cosmos and Santos, playing for the former during the first half, and for the latter team during the second half. He used his popularity to spread the message of love and peace among the followers of the game, and had crowds chanting “Love! Love! Love!” during the exhibition match.
Pele invested a lot of time and effort to advance the popularity of soccer. He penned autobiographies, and even starred in various documentary and semi-documentary films that focused on soccer, or on his life as a soccer player.
Towards the end of his soccer career, Pele also went to display his acting skills, and he is also a musician. His other talents, too, were invested to promote soccer and goodwill among populations.
Lessons from Pele's story
All that a person who thumbs down Pele’s biography will see are a series of success stories, with glorious inputs from the player himself, sports commentators and ecstatic audiences highlighting the legend’s prowess on the field.
Few care to recount the instances when Pele suffered grievous wounds during a game and quit the field in tears, only to return better than before for the next match. Here is the sportsmanship that propelled the player to be the man he is.
The world of soccer would still be waiting for its king if Pele was an ordinary player who was on the field for merely fame or money, rather than true passion for the sport.
One lesson that can be learnt from Pele's story therefore, is that the key to success is to indulge in that which your heart lay.
Another lesson is that a successful man is not the one who does not meet failure, but the one who accepts failure as a part of his learning process and moves on.
An adult who is trying to attain a set goal must be like a toddler learning to walk - not afraid of falling down, and getting up every time he falls down to try and walk again, one step at a time.
Pele Best Quotes
"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."
"Enthusiasm is everything. It must be taut and vibrating like a guitar string."
"If you don't give education to people, it is easy to manipulate them."
"The bicycle kick is not easy to do."
"A penalty is a cowardly way to score."
"Sport is something that is very inspirational for young people."
"I always had a philosophy which I got from my father. He used to say, 'Listen. God gave to you the gift to play football. This is your gift from God. If you take care of your health, if you are in good shape all the time, with your gift from God no one will stop you, but you must be prepared.'"
"The bicycle kick is not easy to do. I scored 1,283 goals, and only two or three were bicycle kicks."
"At 17, I already had responsibility because I took care of my family, but in the football I was young; I wasn't experienced or the captain - I was just in the team."
"All my life I thank God. My family was very religious."
"When I was minister of sport in Brazil, I tried to bring in a law that would make the chairmen of clubs reveal their accounts like other businesses. It was turned down, but I think it is an important story that will make a good film."
"I played for Santos at 16, and we had an excellent team, so it helped a lot. And then I played for Brazil at the Maracana against Argentina. So I get more experience. This was one year before the World Cup, and it made a lot of difference."
"When you play against dirty players or very tough players, it's easy to escape because you know what they're going to do. But when the player is tough but intelligent, it's much more difficult."
"When you are young, you do a lot of stupid things."
"When I retired, at that time I had a lot of proposals to play in Europe, England, Italy, Spain, Mexico. But I said no, after 18 years I want to rest, because I want to retire."
"To be a striker you need to be in good shape."
"Everything is practice."
"A lot of people, when a guy scores a lot of goals, think, 'He's a great player', because a goal is very important, but a great player is a player who can do everything on the field. He can do assists, encourage his colleagues, give them confidence to go forward. It is someone who, when a team does not do well, becomes one of the leaders."
"I am constantly being asked about individuals. The only way to win is as a team. Football is not about one or two or three star players."
"Pele doesn't die. Pele will never die. Pele is going to go on for ever."
"When I was a footballer, I surrounded myself with footballers. We were all friends. But in Brasilia you don't know who your friends are. It can be a dangerous place."
"The World Cup is a very complicated tournament - six games, seven if you make it to the final - and maybe if you lose one game you're out, even if you're the best."
"Everybody knows my life. I won a lot of tournaments and scored more than 1,000 goals, won three World Cups but I could not play in Olympic Games."
"Brazil's always had great players, both at home and abroad, but we need to put all that talent together and mould a team out of it."
"I was really proud that I was named after Thomas Edison and wanted to be called Edson. I thought Pele sounded horrible. It was a rubbish name. Edson sounded so much more serious and important."
Editor and Founder
Tal Gur is a location independent entrepreneur, author, and impact investor. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His most recent book and bestseller, The Art of Fully Living - 1 Man, 10 Years, 100 Life Goals Around the World, has set the stage for his new mission: elevating the next generation of leaders to their true potential.