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Personal information
Full name Edson Arantes do Nascimento
Date of birth October 23, 1940
Place of birth Três Corações (MG), Brazil
Nickname Pelé
O Rei (The King),
Pérola Negra (The Black Pearl),
Dico (by his family)
Position Forward
Youth clubs
1952-1956 Bauru EC
Professional clubs*
Years Club Apps (goals)
Santos FC
New York Cosmos
605 (589)
64 (37)
National team
1956-1971 Brazil 92 (77)

* Professional club appearances and goals
counted for the domestic league only.

Edson Arantes do Nascimento, KBE (born October 23, 1940 in Três Corações, Brazil), best known by his nickname Pelé, is a former Brazilian football player, and widely regarded to be the greatest of all time. In his native Brazil, Pelé is hailed as a national hero for his accomplishments and contribution to the game, in addition to being officially declared a national treasure by the Brazilian government. During his career, he became known as "The King of Football" (O Rei do Futebol) or simply "The King Pelé" (O Rei Pelé).

Spotted from a young age, Pelé began playing for Santos Futebol Clube at just 15, his national team at 16, and won his first World Cup at 17. He stayed loyal to his club, remaining with them for two decades until his semi-retirement in 1975, despite numerous offers from European clubs. Pelé played as an inside forward, striker, and what later became known as the playmaker position. Pelé's technique and natural athleticism have been universally praised; he was renowned for his brilliant dribbling and visionary passing, as well as his pace, powerful shot, and an exceptional heading ability.

He is the all-time top scorer in the history of the Brazil national team and is the only footballer ever to win three World Cup titles as a player.

Since his full retirement in 1977 Pelé has been an ambassador for football and has also undertaken various acting roles and commercial ventures.

Early life

Born in Três Corações, Minas Gerais, Brazil, the son of Fluminense footballer Dondinho (born Joao Ramos do Nascimento) and Celeste. He was named after American inventor Thomas Edison, and was originally nicknamed Dico by his family. He did not receive the nickname "Pelé" until his school days, when it is claimed he was given it because of his pronunciation of the name of his favourite player, local Vasco da Gama goalkeeper Bilé, which he misspoke "Pilé". He originally disliked the nickname, being suspended from school for punching the classmate that coined it, but the more he complained the more it stuck. In his autobiography, Pelé stated he had no idea what the name means, nor did his old friends. Apart from the assertion that the name is derived from that of Bilé, the word has no known meaning, although it does resemble the Irish language word 'Peile', meaning football, and the Hebrew word פֶּלֶא, meaning "wonder".

Growing up in poverty in Bauru, São Paulo, Pelé earned extra money by shining shoes at the Bauru Athletic Club on match days. Taught to play by his father, whose own professional football career with Atletico Mineiro ended prematurely due to a knee injury, he could not afford a proper football and usually played with either a sock stuffed with newspaper, tied with a string or a grapefruit.

His first team was called the "Shoeless Ones" formed by himself and other boys from the Sete de Setembro and Rubens Arruda street but, when they entered a local tournament organised by the mayor of Bauru that required footwear, they were no longer shoeless and were renamed Ameriquinha. They reached the final in BAC Stadium in front of thousands of spectators and won with Pele ending up as the tournament top scorer.

In 1954, several members of the Ameriquinha team, including Pele, were invited to join the Baquinho boy's team to be managed by former Brazilian international Waldemar de Brito, who played in the 1934 World Cup in Italy. For the first time, Pele was paid to play football. The team won the 1954 Youth Championship organised by the newspapers Diario de Bauru and the São Paulo Sporting Gazette with Pele scoring 148 goals in 33 games.

Club career


In 1956, de Brito took Pelé to Santos, an industrial and port city in the eastern state of São Paulo, to try out for professional club Santos Futebol Clube telling the directors at Santos that the 15-year-old would be "the greatest football player in the world."

National team career

Pelé's first international match was a 2-1 victory against Argentina on July 7, 1957. In that match, he scored his first goal for Brazil, three months before his 17th birthday.

1958 World Cup

His World Cup debut was against the USSR in the first round of the 1958 FIFA World Cup. He was the youngest player of that tournament, and at the time the youngest ever to play in the World Cup. He scored his first World Cup goal against Wales in quarterfinals, the only goal of the match, to help Brazil advance to semifinals, while becoming the youngest ever World Cup goalscorer at 17 years and 239 days. Against France in the semifinal, Brazil was leading 2-1 at halftime, and then Pelé scored a hat-trick, becoming the youngest in World Cup history to do so.

On 19 June 1958 Pelé became the youngest player to play in a World Cup final match at 17 years and 249 days. He scored two goals in the final as Brazil beat Sweden 5-2. His first goal, a lob over a defender followed by a precise volley shot, was selected as one of the best goals in the history of the World Cup. When the match ended, he passed out on the field, and had to be attended by the medical staff. He then recovered, and was visibly compelled by the victory, in tears as being congratulated by his teammates. He finished the tournament with six goals in four matches played, tied for second place, behind record-breaker Just Fontaine.

1962 World Cup

In the first match of the 1962 World Cup, against Mexico, Pelé assisted the first goal and then scored the final 2-0 after a run past four defenders. He injured himself while attempting a long-range shot against Czechoslovakia. This would keep him out of the rest of the tournament, and forced coach Aymoré Moreira to make his only lineup change of the tournament. The substitute was Amarildo, who had a good performance in the tournament; it was, however, Garrincha, who would take the leading role and carried Brazil to their second World Cup title.

1966 World Cup

The 1966 tournament was remembered for its excessive physical play, and Pelé was one of the victims of such play. After becoming the first player ever to score in three World Cups, with a direct free kick against Bulgaria, he had to rest, due to tiredness, for the match against Hungary, which Brazil lost 1-3. He then faced Portugal, and several violent tackles by the Portuguese defenders caused him to leave the match and the tournament. Brazil lost that match and were eliminated in the first round of the World Cup for the first time since 1934. After the tournament, Pelé declared that he did not wish to play in the World Cup again.

1970 World Cup

When Pelé was called to the national team in early 1969, he first refused, but then accepted and played in six World Cup qualifying matches, scoring six goals. The 1970 tournament in Mexico was to be Pelé's last.

The 1970 squad featured major changes in relation to the 1966 squad. Players like Garrincha, Nilton Santos, Djalma Santos, and Gilmar had already retired, but the team, with Pelé, Rivelino, Jairzinho, Gérson, Tostão, and Clodoaldo, is widely considered one of the greatest football teams ever.

In the first match, against Czechoslovakia, Pelé scored the 2-1 after controlling Gerson's pass with his chest. Brazil won the match, 4-1. On the first half of the match against England, he nearly scored with a header that was spectacularly saved by Gordon Banks. On the second half, he assisted Jairzinho for the only goal of the match. Against Romania, he opened the score on a direct free kick goal, a strong strike with the outside of his right foot. Later on the match he scored again to put the score 3-1. Brazil won by a final score of 3-2. In quarterfinals against Peru, Brazil won 4-2, with Pelé assisting Tostão on his team's third goal. In the semi-finals, Brazil faced Uruguay for the first time since the 1950 World Cup final round match. Jairzinho put Brazil ahead 2-1, and Pelé assisted Rivelino for the 3-1. In that match, Pelé hit Uruguayan player Fontes with his elbow, at the same time the latter was fouling Pelé.

Brazil played Italy in the final, with Pelé scoring the opener on a header over defender Tarcisio Burgnich. He then made assists on Jairzinho's and Carlos Alberto's goals, the latter one after an impressive collective play. Brazil won the match 4-1, keeping the Jules Rimet Trophy indefinitely. Burgnich, who marked Pelé during the match, was quoted saying "I told myself before the game, he's made of skin and bones just like everyone else — but I was wrong".

His last international match was on July 18, 1971 against Yugoslavia in Rio de Janeiro. His record with the Brazilian team was 67 wins, 14 draws, and 11 losses. Brazil never lost a match with both Pelé and Garrincha on the field.



Official Tournaments

  • Campeonato Paulista champion in 1958, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969 and 1973
  • Torneio Rio-São Paulo champion in 1959, 1963 and 1964
  • Torneio Roberto Gomes Pedrosa (Taça de Prata) champion in 1968
  • Taça Brasil champion in 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1965
  • Copa Libertadores champion in 1962 and 1963
  • Intercontinental Cup in 1962 and 1963
  • South-American Recopa in 1968

Unofficial Tournaments

  • Copa Oswaldo Cruz: 1958, 1962, 1968
  • Mexico City Tournament: 1959
  • Teresa Herrera Trophy: 1959
  • Copa Naranja de Valencia : 1959
  • Paris Tournament: 1960, 1961
  • Buenos Aires Tournament: 1965
  • Chile Octogonal Tournament: 1968
  • Rome-Florence Tournament: 1968
  • Amazon Tournament: 1968
  • Kingston City Tournament: 1971
  • Laudo Natel Tournament: 1974

New York Cosmos

  • NASL champion in 1977


  • World Cup champion in 1958, 1962, 1970
  • Roca Cup: 1957, 1963
  • Copa O'Higgins: 1959
  • Copa Atlântica: 1960


He was voted Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee in 1999 for his Olympic successes.

In December 2000, Pelé was named Footballer of the Century by FIFA. The award was intended to be based upon votes in a web poll, but after it became apparent that it favoured Diego Maradona, many observers complained that the internet nature of the poll would have meant a skewed demographic of younger fans who would have seen Maradona play, but not Pele. FIFA then appointed a "Family of Football" committee of soccer experts to decide the winner of the award. Maradona was instead awarded the title of FIFA Internet Player of the Century. Allegations that the internet poll had been bombarded by Argentine fans still remain to this day.

In the same year, Pelé received the Laureus World Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement Award from South African President Nelson Mandela.

Career Statistics

Goalscoring and appearance record

Pelé's goalscoring record is often reported as being 1281 goals in 1363 games. This figure includes goals scored by Pelé in non-competitive club matches, for example, international tours Pelé completed with Santos and the New York Cosmos, and games Pelé played in for armed forces teams during his national service in Brazil.

The tables below record every goal Pelé scored in major club competitions for Santos and the New York Cosmos. During much of Pelé's playing career in Brazil there was no national league championship. From 1960 onwards the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) were required to provide meritocratic entrants for the then-new Copa Libertadores, a South American international club competition broadly equivalent to the European Cup. To enable them to do this, the CBF organised two national competitions: the Taça de Prata and Taça Brasil. A national league championship, the Campeonato Brasileiro, was first played in 1971, alongside traditional state and interstate competitions such as the Campeonato Paulista and the Torneio Rio-São Paulo.

The number of league goals scored by Pelé is listed as 589 in 605 games. This number is the sum of the goals scored by Pelé in national league-based competitions: the Campeonato Paulista (SPS), Torneio Rio-São Paulo (RSPS), Taça de Prata and Campeonato Brasileiro. The Taça Brasil was a national competition organised on a knockout basis.

A dark grey cell in the table indicates that the relevant competition did not take place that year.

Club Season SPS RSPS T. de Prata Camp. Brasil. T. Brasil Copa Libertadores Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Santos 1956 0* 0* 0* 0*
1957 14+15* 19+17* 9 5 38 41
1958 38 58 8 8 46 66
1959 32 45 7 6 4* 2* 43* 53*
1960 30 33 3 0 0 0 0 0 33 33
1961 26 47 7 8 5* 7 0 0 38* 62
1962 26 37 0 0 5* 2* 4* 4* 35* 43*
1963 19 22 8 14 4* 8 4* 5* 35* 49*
1964 21 34 4 3 6* 7 0* 0* 31* 44*
1965 30 49 7 5 4* 2* 7* 8 48* 64*
1966 14 13 0* 0* 5* 2* 0 0 19* 15*
1967 18 17 14* 9* 0 0 0 0 32* 26*
1968 21 17 17* 11* 0 0 0 0 38* 28*
1969 25 26 12* 12* 0 0 37* 38*
1970 15 7 13* 4* 0 0 28* 11*
1971 19 8 21 1 0 0 40 9
1972 20 9 16 5 0 0 36 14
1973 19 11 30 19 0 0 49 30
1974 10 1 17 9 0 0 27 10
All 412 470 53 49 56* 36* 84 34 33* 30* 15 17 653 636
Club Season NASL
Apps Goals
NY Cosmos 1975 9 5
1976 24 15
1977 31 17
All 64 37
  • A "*" indicates this number was inferred from a Santos fixture list from and this list of games Pelé played, with the number of goals he scored in each.

Other records

Pelé is in third place on the list of all-time top goalscorers in international matches; in 92 appearances for the Brazilian team, he scored 77 goals. He is in fourth place behind Ronaldo, Gerd Müller, and Just Fontaine on the list of goalscorers in World Cup matches, with 12 goals. He was part of three World Cup winning teams, although he did not play in the 1962 final due to injury and did not receive a medal. Pelé is one of only four footballers to have achieved the feat of scoring in two different world cup final matches, sharing that honour with Paul Breitner, Vava, and Zinedine Zidane. He is one of five players to have scored twice from direct free kick in World Cups (The others are Rivelino, Teófilo Cubillas, Bernard Genghini, and David Beckham). He is one of only two players to have scored in four World Cups (the other being Uwe Seeler, who did it in the same four tournaments as Pelé).

It is often claimed that Pelé is the most prolific scorer in football history. According to FIFA, Pelé ended his career with a total of 1281 goals in 1363 matches. However, many of these goals were scored in non-competitive club matches. For instance, if one counts non-competitive goals when compiling the total of goals scored by Gerd Müller, he would have a career total of 1455 goals in 1204 games. As non-competitive games are rarely counted in player's statistics it is unknown how many players could have passed Pelé's mark, but 1281 goals is certainly one of the highest totals achieved by a professional footballer. If one looks only at competitive goals, then Pelé is the third highest scorer of all time behind Arthur Friedenreich and Josef Bican. Bican never attempted to draw attention to his record, and when questioned about this, he quipped "who'd have believed me if I said I'd scored five times as many goals as Pelé?"

Although the Brazilian domestic league system provided every single starter from the 1958, 1962, and 1970 Brazil World Cup Champions, perhaps leading one to the assumption that it was the world's strongest league during the years of Pelé's career, one also has to take into account the state nature of the league. At the time Santos mainly played against other teams from the São Paulo region, whereas the best players were spread around teams all across Brazil. For instance Garrincha, Jairzinho and Altair played in the Rio de Janeiro League, Tostão played in the Minas Gerais League, and of the players that actually competed in São Paulo, Carlos Alberto, Zito, Pepe and Gilmar actually played with Pele for Santos. As of 2006, teams from São Paulo state have won 14 of a possible 36 national league titles (see Titles by state).

After football

Pelé, right, with Brazil President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, left, and Dona Marisa, July 13, 2004.
Pelé, right, with Brazil President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, left, and Dona Marisa, July 13, 2004.

The most notable area of Pelé's life since football is his ambassadorial work for various bodies. In 1992, Pelé was appointed a United Nations ambassador for ecology and the environment.

He was awarded Brazil's Gold Medal for outstanding services to the sport, and in 1995, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso appointed Pelé to the position of "Extraordinary Minister for Sport". During this time he proposed legislation to reduce corruption in Brazilian football, which became known as the Pelé law. When finally approved in 2000, the bill contained just 11% of the original text, causing Pelé to state that he wanted his name removed from it. Pelé left his position in 2001 after he was accused of involvement in a bribery scandal.

In 1995, he was appointed a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, and in 1997 he was given an honorary British knighthood.

In 2002, Pelé scouted for Premiership Football Team Manchester United and Fulham FC.

In 2005, Pelé drew international media attention due to the imprisonment of his son Edson Cholbi Nascimento, an ex-goalkeeper of Santos Futebol Clube, who was arrested in an operation to dismantle a drug gang in southeastern Brazil. The younger Nascimento, then 35, was arrested along with about 50 other people after an eight-month investigation into a cocaine trafficking operation in the port city of Santos.

Pelé has published several autobiographies, starred in documentary and semi-documentary films and composed various musical pieces, including the entire soundtrack for the film Pelé in 1977. He appeared, alongside other footballers of the 1960s and 1970s, Michael Caine, and Sylvester Stallone, in the 1981 film Escape to Victory, about an attempted escape from a World War II Nazi POW Camp. Pelé was one of the first black persons to be featured on the cover of Life magazine, and was the first sports figure featured in a video game with the Atari 2600 game Pelé's Soccer.

He is now reasonably well known for his role in promoting impotence cure Viagra.

He once remarked that George Best was the "greatest footballer in the world". After Best's death Pelé sent a football to his family, on which he wrote "From the second best player in the world".

Acting and film career
  • Os Estranhos ( 1969) (TV Series)
  • O Barão Otelo no Barato dos Bilhões ( 1971)
  • A Marcha ( 1973)
  • Os Trombadinhas ( 1978)
  • Escape to Victory ( 1981)
  • A Minor Miracle ( 1983)
  • Pedro Mico ( 1985)
  • Os Trapalhões e o Rei do Futebol ( 1986)
  • Hotshot ( 1987)
  • Solidão, Uma Linda História de Amor ( 1990)
  • Mike Bassett: England Manager ( 2001)
  • ESPN SportsCentury ( 2004)

Personal life

Pelé has been married twice; first in 1966, to Rosemeri, with whom he had three children. This marriage ended in divorce in 1982. He married Assiria on April 30, 1994 and the couple have two children.

In addition to his children from two marriages, Pele has at least one other daughter, Sandra Regina Arantes do Nascimento (who died of breast cancer on October 17, 2006 at age 42).


Pelé said in his autobiography his biggest regret was never scoring an overhead bicycle kick during a World Cup.

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