Edson Arantes do Nascimento is one of the best-known footballers in the world. Better known as Pele - he doesn't remember where or how he got that name - he was born on 23rd of October 1940 in the small town of Tres Coracoes, Minas Gerais in Brazil. His father Dondinho was a professional footballer who hardly earned enough to make both ends meet. His mother Dona Celeste was a strict disciplinarian and she dreamed that her son would some day become a doctor, unlike Dondinho who wanted him to be a footballer. But Pele wanted to become a pilot!
At the age of seven, Pele started shining shoes and then as he grew older, sold meat pies at the railway station to earn some money. He joined the famous Santos Football Club when he was only 14. Pele was nicknamed 'Gasolina' at Santos. "Whenever they wanted someone to go out for coffee or to run an errand, they would call on me as the youngest in the team and they would tell me not to spare the 'gasoline' in getting there and back. Hence the name 'Gasolina". He played for Santos, in the seniors, at the age of 15 and a year later made a dream international debut, playing as a substitute for Brazil against Argentina in a friendly game and scoring a goal.
Pele was picked for the 1958 World Cup in Sweden and made his World Cup debut in the third match against Russia. He scored his first World Cup goal against Wales, and then scored a hat-trick against France in the semi-final. He scored two more goals in the final against Sweden to help Brazil win by 5 goals to 2. In the 1962 World Cup in Chile, Pele got himself injured in the second game and was out of action for a long time, while in the 1966 World Cup in England, ruthless tackling by the Portuguese almost left him a cripple.
Pele scored his 1000th goal in 1969 against Vasco da Gama at the Maracana Stadium in Rio. In the 1970 World Cup final against Italy, Pele opened the scoring with a spectacular jump and header from a cross by Rivelino. He then set up Jairzinho and Carlos Alberto with beautiful passes to score goals and helped Brazil win the final 4-1. Brazil thus became permanent holders of the Jules Rimet Trophy, having won it thrice.
Pele has represented only two clubs through his illustrious career. He played his final game for Santos in 1974, but came out of retirement to play for New York Cosmos, from where he finally retired in 1977, having scored nearly 1,300 goals in a career spanning twenty years.
The shy, unassuming boy from the shantytown of Tres Coracoes grew up to be the most recognized face in the sporting world. In Nigeria, a two-day truce was declared in the tragic war against Biafra so that both sides could watch him play. In Hong Kong, Red Guards from China left their posts to come and meet him; The Shah of Iran waited three hours at the airport to meet him and get photographed with him.
Pele became ambassador for the sport after his retirement.