PELE (born 1940). "Soccer in its purest form" was played by Pele, a South American superstar who was the world's most famous and highest-paid athlete when he joined a North American team in 1975. He led the Brazilian national soccer team to three World Cup victories in 1958, 1962, and 1970 and to permanent possession of the Jules Rimet Trophy.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento was born to a poor family on Oct. 23, 1940, in Tres Coracoes, Brazil. He began playing for a local minor-league club when he was a teenager. He made his debut with the Santos Football Club in 1956. With Pele at inside left forward, the team won several South American clubs' cups and the 1962 world club championship, in addition to the three World Cup championships.
Pele scored his 1,000th goal in 1969. The legendary athlete retired in 1974 but made a comeback in 1975 after accepting a reported 7-million-dollar contract for three years with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League. He said he came out of retirement, not for the money, but to "make soccer truly popular in the United States." His farewell appearance was against his old Santos club in1977. Pele, whose nickname does not mean anything, became a Brazilian national hero and was also known as Perola Negra (Black Pearl).
An average-sized man, he was blessed with speed, great balance, tremendous vision, the ability to control the ball superbly, and the ability to shoot powerfully and accurately with either foot and with his head. In his career he played in 1,363 matches and scored 1,282 goals. His best season was 1958, when he scored 139 times. In addition to his accomplishments in sports, he published several best-selling autobiographies, starred in several documentary and semi-documentary films, and composed numerous musical pieces, including the entire sound track for the film 'Pele' (1977). He was the 1978 recipient of the International Peace Award, and in 1980 he was named athlete of the century.
Text excerpted from Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia, Copyright © 1993, 1994 Compton's NewMedia, Inc.