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by Bryan Stillwagon from Brunswick, GA

One of the most influential people in my life started out as a normal little kid on the streets of a small town in South America. His name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento, but the world knows him as Pelé. Through his many accomplishments, he greatly revolutionized the sport of soccer, and made it the number one sport in the world.

Playing inside left forward, Pelé skillfully lead his native Brazil to three dramatic World Cup titles. He is considered one of the greatest soccer players of all time.

Pele stood out on the field, developing a full range of assets from powerful kicking, to keen vision, skillful ball control with both feet, brilliant passing and field strategy. Many minor leagues were anxious to sign him up.

Born in the small village of Três Corações, Brazil in 1940, Pele started playing this sport at a very young age. At 15, Pele observed his father João Ramos do Nascimento, or "Dondinho," play soccer for hours, hoping that someday he would become a professional player himself.

When he was a child, Pelé and his family moved to Baurú, in the interior of the Brazilian state of São Paulo, where he learned to master the art of "futebol". Pelé played soccer with his neighborhood friends, often going barefoot and improvising with coconuts for balls and cans as goalposts.

His father had been a professional player who had to abandon the sport because of a knee accident. It was clear that the great abilities of Dondinho were passed down to his young son, Pelé.

Pele stood out on the field, developing a full range of assets from powerful kicking, to keen vision, skillful ball control with both feet, brilliant passing and field strategy. Many minor leagues were anxious to sign him up.

He joined the Santos Football Club in 1956, and eventually became the only player to participate in three World Cup victories. He led the Brazilian national team to titles in 1958, 1962, and 1970. By 1970, he had scored his 1000th goal, becoming the most prolific goal-scorer in history. By 1974, when he retired for the first time, Pelé had scored 1200 goals in 1253 games and had become a Brazilian national hero.

From 1975 to 1977 he came out of retirement to play in an attempt to popularize the sport in the United States.

He played with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League, leading them to a league championship in 1977. His talent and enthusiasm on and off the field brought thousands to the stadium and created a new national awareness about the game of soccer.

Pelé's contract with the Cosmos made him the highest-paid athlete in the world at the time. In 1993, he was inducted to the United States Soccer Hall of Fame. After his subsequent retirement in 1977, Pelé became an international ambassador for the sport, working to promote peace and understanding through friendly athletic competition.

Of all the events that made Pelé popular, the one that has probably changed the most lives in the United States is when he came to play for the Cosmos. This not only what added to his global recognition, but also what showed millions of people a sport they had never seen or heard of before. Without him, the sport of soccer would not be what it is today, and I might not be playing the sport. This is why I consider Pelé my hero.

Page created on 3/18/2001 1:59:53 PM

Last edited 3/18/2001 1:59:53 PM

Related Links

Federation Internationale de Football Association - The official website of soccer's international governing body. Contains news of the 2002 World Cup.
Latino Sports Legends - A biography of Pele
The United States Soccer Federation - Lots of news from the fastest growing sport in the country.

Extra Info

Additional information: In addition to Pele's accomplishments in sports, he published several best-selling autobiographies, starred in several documentary and semidocumentary films, and composed numerous musical pieces, including the entire sound track for the film 'Pele' (1977). He was the 1978 recipient of the International Peace Award, and in 1980 he was named athlete of the century.

How can a sports hero unite people of all nations? What are some common goals we can share with people from other countries? How did Pele, by example, further those goals? Tell us in the My Hero Guestbook.

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