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15 Awesome Facts About the Iconic Footballer Pelé!

Sorry Messi and Ronaldo, here are some amazing facts about the world's greatest football player!

Beano Team
Last Updated:  February 22nd 2024

Sure, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappé are all thought of as the world's greatest football players in today's game, but Brazilian icon Pelé will be remembered as the original GOAT! During his life, he won numerous trophies including three World Cup medals and scored many goals for his club teams and Brazil. Here are some amazing facts about his amazing life!

1. He was named after an inventor!

Thomas Edison

He was born in Três Corações, Brazil on October 23, 1940 and named Edson Arantes do Nascimento. Arantes was his mother's surname. He was named after the inventor Thomas Edison, who was responsible for many world-changing inventions including the lightbulb.

2. He earned his nickname at school!

A diving goalkeeper

Pelé got his nickname when he was a boy and mispronounced the name of a goalkeeper called Bilé. The name stuck and he admitted he didn't like it originally as Edson "sounded so much more serious and important".

3. He grew up in poverty

Pelé grew up in Bauru, which is part of the Brazilian city São Paulo. He practiced his football skills with a grapefruit or a sock full of paper. He often played in his bare feet and was part of a team with friends, who called themselves the 'Shoeless Ones'.

4. He became a professional footballer when he was 15!

When he was a teenager, he signed with Santos, with player Waldemar de Brito saying he would be "the greatest football player in the world". On September 7, 1956, he hit the net on his debut against Corinthians and started his legendary journey. He used his first wage to buy his family a gas stove.

5. He was the youngest winner of a World Cup medal!

At 17, he became the youngest player to ever receive a World Cup winner's medal. In the 1958 final, which was held on June 29 in Solna, Sweden, he also scored twice in the final against home side. Brazil won 5-2.

6. He scored over 1000 goals!

A football in the back of a goal net

According to FIFA, Pelé scored 1,281 goals in 1,363 games throughout his professional career. This total includes goals scored in official matches for Santos FC, New York Cosmos, and the Brazilian national team. This includes 92 hat-tricks and even scored four headers in one game!

7. He wasn't that keen on penalties!

He was once quoted as saying, "A penalty is a cowardly way to score." On November 19, 1969, he scored his 1000th goal from the spot in a game for Santos at the legendary Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro. November 19 is now known as Pelé Day because of this incredible achievement.

8. He won many trophies!

Winner's medal

Over the course of his career, Pelé won three World Cups with Brazil: 1958 in Sweden, 1962 in Chile, 1970 in Mexico. He also won 2 World Club Championships medals and 9 São Paulo State Championships (Campeonato Paulista). As an individual, he earned many awards for his performances on the field.

9. He was awarded an Honorary Knighthood by the Queen!

In 1997, Queen Elizabeth II honoured Pelé with an honorary knighthood. She attended a match at Rio de Janeiro's Maracanã stadium in 1968. The footballer once wrote on social media: "She came to Brazil to witness our love for football and experienced the magic of a packed Maracanã.”

10. New York Cosmos paid a fortune for him!

Pelé signed for New York Cosmos in 1975 for $2.8 million dollars – a MASSIVE deal at the time – and he stayed with the US club for two years before retiring from the game. Every player he faced wanted to swap shirts with the Brazil legend! So much so, the club would give each player who visited the Cosmos a shirt of their own, so no-one was disappointed!

11. He played for two teams during his final game!

Pelé played his final professional game at the Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on October 1, 1977. He played the first half for New York Cosmos, then finished the game with his first club, Santos. Cosmos won 2-1 and Pelé scored his final goal.

12. He stopped two countries fighting!

A peace sign on a football field

For a short while, at least. On February 4, 1969, Pelé's side Santos side visited Lagos in Nigeria for an exhibition match to fund football schools in the area. At the time, Nigeria was at was with the state of the Republic of Biafra, but a 48-hour ceasefire was agreed to allow the game to go ahead without incident. He later wrote: "I learned as a kid, with my father Dondinho, that football is an instrument for good," Pelé remembered, adding this moment was one of his "greatest prides". The game ended 2-1 to Santos and people could briefly enjoy a game of football in literal peace.

13. He never won the Ballon D'Or!

You've now read that Pelé had won pretty much everything there was to win as an international football icon, but one thing was just out of his grasp: the Ballon d'Or. Due to rules, only European players were considered for this prestigious award, but he would have certainly won. Brazilian Ronaldo later picked up the trophy in 1997.

14. There's a mobile Pelé museum in Brazil!

A football trophy and boots

Why go to a Pelé museum when a Pelé museum can come to you? A well-know soft drinks manufacturer sponsored a Pelé museum on wheels, which goes around Brazil and brings the magic of football to people's doorstep!

15. He did a lot of work for charity!

After his football career, Pelé would devote much of his time to charity work and was a United Nations ambassador and represented UNICEF too. He is still remembered as one of the greatest footballers the world has ever seen.