Former Brazilian professional footballer Pele specialized in forward play. He is recognized by many as one of the best players in history. With 10 FIFA World Cups under his belt, he is the player with the most titles won. He was one of the two joint winners of the Ballon d’Or in 1970 and was voted FIFA Player of the Century in 1999.
On October 23, 1940, Edson Arantes do Nascimento was born in Três Coraçes, Minas Gerais, Brazil. His parents were Celeste Arantes and Dondinho (real name Joo Ramos do Nascimento). Former Fluminense footballer Dondinho, known as “the Cannonball” for his potent shooting ability, was a flamboyant figure who eventually held managerial and coaching positions at Sao Paulo FC.
Pele began playing football with neighborhood friends when he was six years old; however, he could only buy an outdated ball that required frequent inflation with the help of his father’s old bicycle pump. When he was 15 years old, Waldemar de Brito, a former Brazilian international and scout for Santos FC, finally noticed his talent and convinced the club’s executives to sign him.
Pele made his senior team debut for Santos against Corinthians Santo Andre on September 7th, 1956, when he was just 16 years old. That same game, in which he also scored his first goal, marked the start of an incredible run of goal-scoring that would see him score 1,281 goals in 1,363 games over the course of his 21-year career with Santos FC, from 1956 to 1974, including 77 goals in 91 appearances for Brazil! Along with multiple domestic championships, Santos also won the 1962 and 1963 Copa Libertadores (South American equivalent of the European Champions League).
Here are ten fun facts about Pele:
1. Pele’s soccer career started when he was signed by Santos FC at the age of 15.
2. In September 1956, Pele scored his first goal as a professional against Corinthians.
3. He has fathered five children—including Edinho, a professional football player who plays for So Paulo FC—and has been married twice.
4. He played goalkeeper in his last game and stopped a penalty.
5. Pele, who won the World Cup in 1958, 1962, and 1970, is the only player to have won three of them.
6. Pele played 91 times for Brazil and netted 77 goals in all.
7. Pele hung up his soccer boots in 1977.
8. Pele was admitted to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1993.
9. He gave “the sick children of Brazil” the credit for his 1000th career goal.
10. He was chosen as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador in 2010.