70 facts about Brazil legend Pele

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Considered by many as the greatest player of all time, here are 70 things you may not know about the Brazil icon

Pele is considered one of the greatest football players of all time. He was born on October 23, 1940, in Brazil, and grew up playing football on the streets barefoot.

He made his professional debut for Santos FC at the age of 15 in 1956 and played for the team for almost 20 years.

Pele was part of the Brazilian national team that won the World Cup in 1958, 1962, and 1970, and he scored a total of 77 goals in 92 international appearances.

In addition to his success on the field, Pele is also known for his philanthropic work. He established the Pele Foundation in 1993 to support social projects in Brazil and around the world.

He has also worked with organizations like UNICEF and FIFA to promote sports and education for underprivileged children.

Pele retired from professional football in 1977, but his impact on the sport continues to be felt. He is still considered a legend in Brazil and around the world and is often cited as an inspiration by current players.

Pele's influence on football and his commitment to social causes makes him a true icon of the sport.

The legendary footballer sadly passed away at the age of 82 on December 29 after prolonged illness.

  1. 1283 goals

    Pele scored a total of 1,283 first-class goals, including 77 for Brazil.

  2. Trophies won
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    Trophies won

    He won three World Cups, two World Club Championships and nine Sao Paulo State Championships.

  3. Named after Thomas Edison

    Pele was named after American inventor Thomas Edison, his real name being Edson Arantes do Nascimento.

  4. Professional debut
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    Professional debut

    Pele was signed by Santos when he was 15. He scored four goals on his league debut in a match against FC Corinthians on September 7, 1956.

  5. Scouted by Waldemar de Brito

    Waldemar de Brito, another great Brazilian forward, is credited with discovering Pele, taking him to Santos, and telling them then that he was going to be "the greatest football player in the world."

  6. Youngest ever World Cup winner
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    Youngest ever World Cup winner

    At 17, Pele became the youngest ever winner of a World Cup. He also scored twice in the final against home side Sweden.

  7. Stint as Brazil's Minister of Sports

    Pele was appointed as Minister of Sport in Brazil in 1995, serving until 1998.

  8. Athlete of the Century

    He was voted athlete of the century by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1999.

  9. British Knighthood

    In 1997, Pele was given an honorary British Knighthood.

  10. 1000th career goal

    On November 19, 1969, Pele scored his 1000th career goal. Hundreds raced onto the pitch to mob the Brazilian star and it took over 30 minutes for the game to resume.

  11. 'Pele Day'

    At Santos, November 19 is known as 'Pele Day' to celebrate the anniversary of his 1,000th goal.

  12. Joint sixth-highest goalscorer in World Cup

    Pele is the joint sixth-highest goalscorer along with Kylian Mbappe in World Cup history with 12 goals - and the second highest-placed Brazilian behind Ronaldo.

  13. Brazilian ambassador to the UN on Pele

    When Pele retired, J.B. Pinheiro, the Brazilian ambassador to the United Nations, said: "Pele played football for 22 years, and in that time he did more to promote world friendship and fraternity than any other ambassador anywhere."

  14. Ceasefire to watch Pele

    In 1967, a 48-hour ceasefire was declared in Nigeria so that Federal and Rebel troops could watch Pele play on a visit to the war-torn nation.

  15. The greatest!

    The greatest!

    Pele said in 2006: "For 20 years they have asked me the same question, who is the greatest? Pele or Maradona? I reply that all you have to do is look at the facts - how many goals did he score with his right foot or with his head?"

  16. Craze at New York Cosmos
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    Craze at New York Cosmos

    When Pele played for the New York Cosmos, so many of his opponents wanted to swap shirts with him that the club had to give each of their opponents a shirt after every match. "Pele was the main attraction," says Gordon Bradley, one of the club's coaches at the time. "Sometimes we had to take 25 or 30 shirts with us to a match - otherwise, we'd never have got out of the stadium alive."

  17. Cameo in Mike Bassett: England Manager

    Pele made a cameo appearance in the film Mike Bassett: England manager, in which he was interiewed by the broadcaster Martin Bashir. He laughs off England's chances of winning the World Cup.

  18. Importance of football stars

    Pele on the importance of football stars: "When football stars disappear, so do the teams, and that is a very curious phenomenon. It is like in the theatre, in a play, where there is a great star. If the star is not well, the whole cast suffers."

  19. Raised millions for charitable causes

    Pele has helped raise millions of pounds for charitable causes including Great Ormond Street and Harlem Street Soccer.

  20. 'Pele made in heaven'

    Noted English football writer Geoffrey Green once declared: “Di Stefano was manufactured on earth, Pele was made in heaven.”

  21. New York Cosmos' honorary president

    On August 1, 2010, Pelé was introduced as the Honorary President of a revived New York Cosmos.

  22. Pele on penalty

    Pele once said: "A penalty is a cowardly way to score."

  23. Failed to notice Michael Schumacher!
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    Failed to notice Michael Schumacher!

    In March 2003, Brazilian model Gisele Bundchen was offered special intensive training in flag-waving in advance of the 32nd Brazilian Grand Prix. Why? Organisers wanted her to do a better job than Pele, the previous year's flag waver, who got "distracted" and failed to notice Michael Schumacher crossing the finish line!

  24. Pele = G-O-D

    "How do you spell Pelé?" the Times of London once declared. "G-O-D".

  25. Pele-Maradona rivalry
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    Pele-Maradona rivalry

    Pele and Maradona are hardly friends. In 2010, Pele said of the Argentinian: “He is not a good example for the youth. He had the God-given gift of being able to play football, and that is why he is lucky." Maradona's response: “Who cares what Pele says? He belongs in a museum.”

  26. 'Most complete player'

    England World Cup-winning captain Bobby Moore on Pele: “The most complete player I've ever seen.”

  27. Meaning of the nickname Pele

    His family gave him the nick-name "Dico". He did not get the nickname Pele until he started school, where he used to pronounce the name of the local Vasco da Gama goalkeeper Bile as Pile. Hence, a classmate of his gave him the nickname Pele.

  28. Failed to surpass father's tally

    Pele's father once scored five headed goals in one game, a feat that Pele was never able to replicate. The most headers Pele ever scored in a game was four.

  29. Pele or Gascoigne?
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    Pele or Gascoigne?

    Former Manchester City and England star Rodney Marsh once said of Pele: “Comparing Gascoigne to Pele is like comparing Rolf Harris to Rembrandt.”

  30. Brazil's 100th World Cup goal

    Brazil's 100th World Cup goal

    Pele's header against Italy in the 1970 World Cup final was their 100th World Cup goal.

  31. First-ever World Cup goal

    His first World Cup finals goal came against Wales in the 1958 quarter-final. Brazil won 1-0.

  32. Married to a psychologist

    Since April 1994 Pelé has been married to psychologist and gospel singer Assíria Lemos Seixas.

  33. A role model

    Pele on being a role-model: "Every kid around the world who plays soccer wants to be Pele. I have a great responsibility to show them not just how to be like a soccer player, but how to be like a man."

  34. Pele on success

    Pele on success: "Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do."

  35. Mentioned in a song

    Pele is mentioned in the song "Ghetto Superstar" by the rapper Pras.

  36. Only second to Muhammad Ali
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    Only second to Muhammad Ali

    In 2000, Pelé was named second in the BBC's "Sportsman of the Century" award. Boxing legend Muhammad Ali came first.

  37. No ordinary human being

    Tarcisio Burgnich, the Italian defender who marked Pelé in the 1970 World Cup final, said afterwards: "I told myself before the game, he's made of skin and bones just like everyone else — but I was wrong."

  38. Black Pearl

    In Brazil he is often called “Pérola Negra”, which means Black Pearl.

  39. A national treasure

    The Brazilian government declared Pelé an official national treasure in 1961 to prevent him from being transferred out of the country.

  40. National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee

    In 1993, Pele was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

  41. How Pele joined New York Cosmos?
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    How Pele joined New York Cosmos?

    To persuade Pele to sign for the New York Cosmos in 1975, Clive Toye, the team's general manager said: "Don't go to Italy, don't go to Spain, all you can do is win a championship. Come to the U.S. and you can win a country."

  42. 'The shoeless ones'

    Pele’s first football team was formed with a bunch of friends from his neighbourhood, and they called themselves ‘the shoeless ones’.

  43. Museum on wheels

    In Brazil, Coca-Cola sponsors a Pele museum on wheels that travels throughout the country.

  44. Only one Pele

    Cristiano Ronaldo once said: "Pele is the greatest player in football history, and there will only be one Pele."

  45. Only player to win three World Cups

    Pele is the only player to have been a part of three World Cup winning teams.

  46. Eight goals in a match!

    On November 21, 1964, Pele scored eight goals as Santos ran riot against Botafogo to register a monumental 11-0 victory.

  47. 92 hat-tricks
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    92 hat-tricks

    Pele scored 92 hat-tricks, and scored four goals on 31 occasions, five on six occasions, and once scored eight in one match.

  48. Could not afford a ball as a boy

    As a boy, Pele used to play with a sock stuffed with paper as he could not afford to buy a football.

  49. Pele on winning

    Pele on winning: "If you are first you are first. If you are second, you are nothing."

  50. UNICEF Goodwill ambassador and an UN ambassador

    Pele has worked as a UNICEF Goodwill ambassador and as a United Nations ambassador, working to protect the environment and fight corruption in Brazil.

  51. Last international match
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    Last international match

    Pele came out of international retirement to play one last game for Brazil on October 6, 1976 against club side Flamengo, who won the match 2-0. His last international game for Brazil, however, was a 2-2 draw with Yugoslavia on July 18, 1971.

  52. Last game as a professional

    On October 1, 1977, Pele played his last game as a footballer as Santos played New York Cosmos at the Giants Stadium. He played the first half of the game for the American club, and the second half for Santos.

  53. The invincible duo

    The invincible duo

    Brazil never lost a game when Pele and the legendary Garrincha played together.

  54. Joint-highest goalscorer from Brazil
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    Joint-highest goalscorer from Brazil

    He jointly holds the record for the most number of goals scored for the national team. He was the nation's highest goalscorer for more than 40 years until Neymar equalled his tally of 77 goals at the 2022 World Cup.

  55. 100th World Cup goal with a header

    Pele scored Brazil's 100th World Cup goal with his head.

  56. A video game named after Pele

    Pele had a video game named after him back in the 1980s called 'Pelé's Soccer'.

  57. MMA fighter named after Pele

    MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter Jose Landi-Jons was nicknamed "Pelé" after him.

  58. A drawing of Pele

    Dutch artist Dick Brynestein made a drawing of him and called him Pietje Pele.

  59. Increased the popularity of soccer in USA

    His presence in the USA helped boost average attendance across the league by almost 80 percent from 1975 (7,597) to 1977 (13,584).

  60. First professional hat-trick

    Pele scored his first hat-trick for Santos against Lavras on June 9, 1957.

  61. New York Cosmos debut

    Pele made his first appearance for New York Cosmos on June 5, 1975, against Dallas Tornadoes. He managed to score on his debut, with the game ending in a 2-2 draw.

  62. Escape to Victory
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    Escape to Victory

    Pele starred in Escape to Victory, a World War II drama about a team of prisoners of war who play their Nazi captors in a football match. Unsurprisingly, he played the team's star attacker, Corporal Luis Fernandez, who hailed from Trinidad and Tobago.

  63. Featured in an advertisement for Viagra

    In 2005, Pele fronted an advertising campaign for the drug Viagra, and was widely credited for breaking the taboo about speaking or receiving treatment for erectile dysfunction.

  64. American forward named after Pele

    American forward Edson Buddle is named after the great Brazilian. "I thought naming him Pele would be too much pressure," his dad revealed. "Edson not many people would know."

  65. Boosted Puma's sales

    As he prepared to kick off in a game during Mexico '70, Pele gestured to the referee that he needed to tie his laces. The cameras panned in to reveal the forward's Puma boots — the company subsequently experienced a huge sales boost.

  66. A goal machine

    Pele scored three or more goals a staggering 129 times during his career.

  67. Disliked his nickname

    Pele has never liked his nickname, admitting it sounds like "baby-talk".

  68. 1000th goal was a penalty
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    1000th goal was a penalty

    Pele's 1000th goal was a penalty. Romario, chasing his own 1000th strike in 2007, eventually reached the milestone in the same manner — although his tally is also disputed in some quarters.

  69. Beckenbauer on Pele
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    Beckenbauer on Pele

    Germany legend Franz Beckenbauer said of Pele: "He is the most complete player I ever saw."

  70. iPod launched on Pele's birthday
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    iPod launched on Pele's birthday

    Filming on Citizen Kane, widely viewed as one of the defining films in Western cinema, finished on the day of Pele's birth. In 2001, on Pele's birthday the world got its first glimpse at one of the defining gadgets of the modern era — the iPod.