On Thursday, December 29, 2022, the soccer world said goodbye to Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known to the world as Pelé. The official cause of death was complications arising from colon cancer. He had been receiving colon cancer treatment since 2021. Aside from being considered by many the world’s G.O.A.T (Greatest of All Time) in soccer, Pelé was also one of the first athletes to become popular on a global scale.
Pelé rose to fame in 1958 on the FIFA World Cup stage, as a 17 year old teenager playing for his home country of Brazil. He would go on to represent his country in four World Cups, while winning three (1958, 1962, and 1970). He came to play in the United States in 1977, as part of the American Soccer League. He played three seasons with the New York Cosmos. Well past his prime at the time, his goal (no pun intended…. okay, maybe some pun intended) was to put a spotlight on the game of soccer in the United States.
[Image by Guilherme Gomes from Pixabay]
Named after Thomas Edison, he was more known by the nickname Pelé. Not a fan of the nickname, he would prefer to be known by his birth name of Edson. That never happened. In his own words [“Pelé: The Autobiography” (2006), with Orlando Duarte and Alex Bellos], he wrote that he was not sure where the nickname came from. The more popular theory is that the nickname came as a reference to a local soccer player that played with Pelé’s dad, named Bilé. Pelé watched and admired Bilé as a kid.
Pelé was the complete package as a soccer player. He was relatively short in stature, 5’8, but played above and beyond his competition. He played with strength and tenacity. He was quick, athletic, and played smart on the field (also known as the pitch). His ability to control and dribble a soccer ball made it difficult for opposing players to take it away. He could keep the ball close to his body, forcing defenders to have to commit. Once they did that, Pelé would use his finesse and suave abilities to get past them, often leaving defenders wondering what they just witnessed. Rest In Peace Edson Arantes do Nascimento, the soccer world will miss you, but you will not be forgotten.
[Featured Image Source: Agência Brasil, a public Brazilian news agency.]