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The world press said that the fantastic Pelé did what he wanted with the ball; he “handled” her with his feet, with his thighs, with his body and with his head, he perfectly mastered all the nuances of the technique. His was a spectacle of incomparable beauty, of supreme emotion that brought even spectators who knew nothing about football to the stadiums, as is the case today with the Argentine Lionel Messi.
“Dico”, “Gasolina” or “Pelé” was born on October 23, 1940 and grew up in a modest home, there in Tres Corazones, south of Minas Gerais, but soon moved with his entire family to Baurú, a city from the interior of São Paulo. The insistent maternal advice of Celeste Arantes for throwing him into the studio was useless.
An obsession boiled in his mind, his blood boiled, he stole his sleep: to be a soccer player like his father, Joao Ramos do Nascimento, better known as Dondinho, a failed player at Tres Corazones and Atlético Mineiro de Belo Horizonte, who received injuries so serious that they ruined his chance to join Flamengo de Rio de Janeiro.
His first shirt was released at Ameriquinha; then Radium, Noroestinho, Sampaulinho and Baquinho, little teams from Baurú; until Waldemanar do Brito visualized the seed of his talent in those pastures without an audience and brought his picaresque football to Santos, the city club.
On September 7, 1956, before turning 16, he made his debut in the first for Santos FC against Corinthians, in the now-defunct small “Américo Guazelli” stadium, in Vila Alcira, in Santo André. Emanuel Del Vecchio (he also played in Italy and Boca Juniors, was a substitute for Paulo Valentim) had to give up his position, first accidentally, then due to the palpable superiority of the new figure. He played the last 20 minutes and scored his first goal; His mother, disappointed, said: “playing soccer will never be anything, it will be a pele (something like a nobody)” and she was wrong.
Brazil in 1970, the maximum football expression of a team in a World Cup. Credit: Archive
On July 7 of the following year, he joined the Brazilian team for the first time, when he was 16 years old, against Argentina for Copa Roca. He won the blue and white team 2 to 1, with both of his own.
He was world champion at the age of 17, on June 29, 1958, in Stockholm, when Brazil thrashed Sweden 5-2, including two of his goals in the second half, directed by the French Guigue and the team led by Pedro Feola formed with Gylmar dos Santos Neve “Gilmar”; Djalma Santos, Hideraldo Luiz Bellini and Nilton Santos; Jose Ely de Miranda “Zito” and “Orlando” Pecanna de Carvalho; Manuel Francisco Do Santos “Mané” Garrincha, Waldir Pereira “Didi”, Evaldo Izidio Neto “Vavá”, Pelé and Mario Jorge Zagalo.
With his bulging eyes, his physique still flimsy, 1.71 m. tall and 70 kgs. of weight, at the beginning he was not a starter, but Dida, a stupendous left midfielder of the best Brazilian lineage, gave him his place in the second game, because between Didí and Nilton Santos they convinced “Gordo” Feola that it was time for Pelé . She wept with joy on Gilmar’s shoulders, in the arms of the corpulent Bellini, after the debut against Russia, 2-0, both goals from Vavá, the Botafogo striker, and after his goal against Wales -at 70′- and from the straight, three against France (5-2) and the great goal (the fifth) in the final against the local.
The world consecrated this young man with dark skin, slippery and dancer, who had given the Brazilian national team another physiognomy.
Athletic like no other, he added a mastery for handling the ball and non-existent luxuries until his appearance. He switched to soccer. Credit: Archive
Santos, until then, sold each of his matches, outside of official competitions, for 800 dollars; From then on his cachet rose to 20,000, even climbed to 50,000 and stabilized at 30,000 of that currency, on the condition that he acted as his star, his face, his extraordinary, his luxury attraction.
For Pelé, Santos FC received mountains of requests for him to star in friendly shows and at his side, grateful, paraded center forwards such as Paulo César de Araujo “Pagao”, Antonio Wilson Vieira Honorio “Coutinho” (who best executed his “travelinhas” , those millimeter walls) or Toninho Guerreiro; leaders such as “Dorval” Rodrigues, José Macía “Pepe” or “Edú” Antunez Coimbra, companions of a thousand feats, with the wise support of the “Manager”, the talented midfielder Zito, exquisite with his game.
With Santos, he won seven São Paulo champion titles; four Brazilian Cups; four Rio-Sao Paulo; two Copa Libertadores de América; two Intercontinentals. In addition, he claimed fame, that humility of an attached child; an impressive record that aroused a wave of interested parties.
In 1962, Real Madrid wanted to buy it for a million dollars; in 1967 the Internazionale de Milan doubled the figure; also Juventus coveted him and many others; there was always a millionaire willing to finance Pele’s transfer to his favorite team. They all failed; It is that this soccer marvel born in the poor wastelands of tiny Baurú, always kept, at the height of fame, that humility of a child attached to his family, to his telluric things.
“I will never leave Santos -he declared a thousand times- because I owe him everything that I am; when I get tired of soccer, before I am old, I will leave the fields, due to the North American apathy in my homeland”. Nor, from the economic point of view, was it a bad deal because he still accumulated an incalculable fortune with land, bonuses and that percentage for friendly stipulated at 800 thousand dollars that he received from week to week, for many years.
He played on all continents, he aroused the admiration of the Argentine public who applauded him in each presentation, such as in that exhibition he held on the Huracán field (Racing 2-Santos 4) in 1961. The Buenos Aires admired him; fluttered his arabesques, he was amazed when he saw him move in a decisive match of the Copa Libertadores, in the River Plate stadium, against Peñarol and elude several rivals on the final line or when he came out of a forest of legs, delicately, basting combinations with Coutinho or when he made the “wall” as a post the legs of (Rubén) Magdalena.
He shone in Sweden in 1958, in Chile he saw the final in 1962 from the stalls of the National Stadium due to a muscle strain; four years later in England 1966, the violence of the rivals suppressed him (injury caused by the ruthless action of the Portuguese Vicente). However, in Mexico ’70 he surpassed those chapters and returned with all the burden of his virtuosity, where he had the privilege of being the only three-time world champion soccer player.
The World Cup press considers Brazil the last art soccer champion, after the fantastic performance in 1970, where they thrashed Italy 4-1 in the final, in a formation led by Mario Jorge Zagallo, the most champion in the universe as a soccer player and host. technical. The final was a demonstration of high hierarchy, where the famous azurro goalkeeper Enrico Albertossi went to look for the ball inside his goal when the green-amarelha ordered it, in a team where, among other celebrities, Gigi Riva, Sandro Mazzola and Giacinto Facchetti.
The champion in the decisive exhibition lined up “Félix” Mieli Venerando; “Brito” Ruas, Wilson Piazza and “Carlos Alberto” Torres; “Everaldo” Marques da Silva and “Clodoaldo” Tavares de Santana; Roberto “Atomic Kick” Rivelino (217 goals in Brazilian clubs), Jair Ventura Filho “Jairzinho”, Eduardo Goncalves de Andrade “Tostao” (7 Brazilian titles with Cruzeiro), Pelé and Roberto “Atomic Kick” “Gerson” (El Zurdo de Prayed).
It should be noted that Pelé stoically rejected all requests to revive the team that would play in the 1974 World Cup; he longed for calm, with an intact image, not tarnished by any unfavorable circumstance, he longed for his home, he was tired of travel.
In addition, his condition as a multifaceted businessman awaited him: he owned a physiotherapy institute, a customs consultancy, businesses in rubber and its derivatives and interests in tourism, construction, advertising, a publishing house, a radio station that made him one of the men wealthiest in Brazil. He filmed movies, acted on television, was a model for the sale of various products. Pelé jumped the outline of the courts to spread the winning image of him, a seller in all sectors of society.
The boost of this socio-economic projection was given by his outstanding juggling with a soccer ball, but also by his personal sympathy and magnetism and a manifestly superior intelligence; although he has preferred to recharge all the weight of his fame in supernatural forces.
“Everything I have I owe to God,” the recently deceased notable soccer player from the 50s, 60s and 70s of the last century noted gratefully from the pages of the autobiographical book: “I, three-time world champion.” Pelé was the password of perfect football, also of the idol that breathed humanity.