by Landon from Fredericksburg, Virginia

“I told myself before the game, he’s made of skin and bones just like everyone else – but I was wrong.” –Tarcisio Burgnich, Italian defender who marked Pele in the 1970 World Cup Finals
Pele kicking a ball around (Wikipedia)
Pele kicking a ball around (Wikipedia)

Most everyone will start this essay by saying something along the lines of, “Most people think heroes can fly through the air and perform superhuman acts of strength and physical talent. Mine cannot, but he is still a hero.” My hero can fly through the air, and he does have superhuman physical talent. My hero is Pelé, the greatest footballer (soccer player) the world has ever known. Even the people who are unfamiliar with the sport know who he is when they hear his nickname. Pele was the complete midfielder and attacker, the complete humanitarian, the complete pioneer, and because of this, he is completely my hero.

Edson Arantes do Nascimento was born October 23rd, 1940 in Três Corações, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Born to João Ramos do Nascimento and Dona Celeste, his father was nicknamed Dondinho and was a famous footballer for the Fluminense Football Club. Interestingly enough, while the whole world knows him as Pelé, he did not receive the nickname until grade school. His parents named him Edson Arantes after Thomas Edison, the American who invented the light bulb. His friends in school called him Pelé and “Edson” did not like the name. In fact, he didn’t even know what the name meant or where it came from. He complained but as any story goes, the more he complained the more he was called it. In fact, he was suspended from school for 2 days for punching a schoolmate in the face who called him Pelé. However, even with all the bullying, he still managed to develop a passion for football. He loved it from a very young age, even though he grew up in a society that was filled with poverty. The society was more worried about surviving than enjoying sports.

While getting a public job and helping support the family, Pelé still managed to get out and play football. He dreamed of playing for the Bauru Youth Team and would get out whenever he could to the nearest open area to kick around. At the age of eleven, he was scouted by legend Waldemar de Brito, and the rest is history. He joined the amateur team Clube Atlético Bauru and when he was 15, de Brito took him to São Paulo to try out for the professional team, Santos Futebol Clube. He signed the deal, and at 16 he was the league’s leading scorer and a starter for Santos. Ten months later, he was called up to the Brazilian National Team. He won 3 World Cups and played in 4, including the 1970 World Cup in which the Brazilian team is widely considered to be the single greatest group of players to grace the field ever.

Pelé was not only a phenomenal player but an ambassador and pioneer for the sport. His signature move was the bicycle kick, where the player falls down and, like pedaling the wheels of a bicycle, kicks the ball from above his head while falling. You can see him performing it in the picture. Pelé is the highest-scoring professional player ever, and the third-highest international game point leader. He was so good, in fact, that in 1995 Brazilian president Cardoso made him the Minister of Sports, a great honor. While serving, he has proposed many laws that protect athletes in general. The Minister of Sports oversees most athletic programs in the area, including some programs that improve production of nets, balls, cleats, and more athletic products.

Pele’s signature move, the Bicycle Kick  (Netreach)
Pele’s signature move, the Bicycle Kick (Netreach)

In addition to being one of the greatest players of all time, he is also a big humanitarian. He is a large contributor for the United Nations International Childrens Fund (UNICEF), a renowned organization for children’s rights. Also, he is a figurehead for erectile dysfunction. The most recent thing he has done is scouted for Premiership League team Fulham FC. Oh, and did I mention, Pelé could stop wars? In 1970, two groups engaged in a civil war in Nigeria agreed on a 48-hour ceasefire so they could watch Pelé compete in an exhibition game at Lagos. He was also one of the first black people to be featured on the cover of Life Magazine, and the first athlete to be featured on the front of a video game.

Pele carrying the Olympic Torch (360Soccer)
Pele carrying the Olympic Torch (360Soccer)

To me, a hero is someone who has overcome difficulties, never given up, and been kind to others. Pelé perfectly fits this role, and that is why he is my hero. Superman never gave up, and he was always kind-hearted. In this way, he is Superman. Pelé is one of the rare athletes I’ve ever witnessed who transcends the simple athlete with the big house and Aston Martin and becomes a legend, someone who will certainly go down in history as one of the greatest footballers and humanitarians and role models to ever walk this Earth. That, my friends, is why this man is my hero and idol.

Page created on 5/8/2006 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 7/24/2017 5:23:55 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Wikipedia - Great information about Pele.
360Soccer - A page on a football site completely dedicated to Pele.
International Football Hall of Fame (IFHOF) - Even the IFHOF has to recognize Pele with his own branch of the webpage.

Extra Info

"The world's National Olympics Committees have voted Brazilian soccer star Pele as No. 1 in their top five Athletes of the Century even though he's the only one of the five who didn't take part in the Olympics."