The Name 'Pele' Stirs
Pele (born Edson Arantes de Nascimento) possesses perhaps the most
famous nickname in sports history. Yet, strangely enough, even the man
who has been called by this name all these years does not know how it
originated or what it really means.
Born October 23, 1940, in Tres Coracoes, Brazil Pele's life with a
soccer ball is the stuff of dreams that began with a stuffed sock. As a
poor youth he learned to kick a 'soccer ball' that was actually an old
stuffed sock. Years later, after scoring his 1,000th goal, Pele was
awarded a four-pound soccer ball made of gold.
French President Charles de Gaulle Made Pele a Knight of the Order of
Merit. A company in Brazil named a coffee after him that in the
coffee-mad land became a bestseller. His legs were so valuable they were
insured for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In 1960, after several European countries offered him
$1 million to sign up with their clubs, the government of Brazil declared
him a national asset making it impossible for him to leave Brazil without
Pele's power and prestige was such that the Nigerian-Biafran
war was halted for a day to allow Pele and his teammates to play a game
and then depart without incident for more peaceful surroundings.
The great soccer player also met Pope Paul VI.
"Don't be nervous my son. I am more nervous than
you. I have been waiting to meet Pele personally for a long time,"
the Pope reportedly said.
On June 10, 1975, Pele signed a three-year contract
with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League. It was just
250 days after he had retired from his Santos, Brazil team. What took
place was due in part to the efforts of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger
who told the Brazilian government that Pele's playing of soccer in the
United States would do much for international relations.
After having scored more goals than any other player
in the history of soccer, the great Pele retired on October 1, 1977 after
his mission of giving the sport of soccer momentum in the United States
He was called 'O Rei' in Brazil, 'La Tulipe Noire' in
France, 'El Peligor' in Chile, 'II Re' in Italy, 'O Vasilas' in Greece and
'King Pele' wherever soccer zealots gathered.
The power, passion and personality of the man made most everyone forget
his real name, Edson Arantes de Nascimento, and virtually everyone aware
of his nickname, 'PELE.'
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Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
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