Widely regarded as the best player to ever lace-up a pair of boots, Pelé remains one of the most recognised faces in world football – despite playing his last game back in 1977.
Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, on October 23 1940, in Três Corações, Brazil, Pelé burst onto the world scene as a teenager with his impressive showing at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden – where he picked up his first winner’s medal. The 17-year-old was instrumental in Brazil’s triumph, finding the net three times in an emphatic 5-2 semi-final win over France. He also scored twice in the final during the 5-2 demolition of Sweden. That would be the start of a long love affair with the tournament as he went on to lift the trophy twice more – in 1962 and 1970 – during a glittering career.
His journey started in 1956 when he joined Santos, a club he stayed with for nearly two decades before signing for the New York Cosmos later in his career. By the age of 16 he was already banging in the goals for Santos, and an impressive first season with Santos saw him quickly called up to the national side.
The young superstar received lucrative offers to play for European clubs but Brazilian President Jânio Quadros had Pelé declared a national treasure, making it legally difficult for him to play in another country.
Pelé aggravated a groin injury two games into the 1962 World Cup in Chile, and had to watch the rest of the tournament from the sidelines as Brazil went on to claim a second straight title. The 1970 World Cup in Mexico marked a triumphant return to glory for both Pelé and Brazil. He scored four goals in the tournament, including one in the final to give Brazil a 4-1 victory over Italy.
Pelé’s star shone so bright during his playing days he famously caused a 48-hour ceasefire in 1969 between two factions in the Nigerian Civil War. As mentioned his 2007 book: Pelé: The Autobiography, the sides called a temporary halt to their feud to watch the great man play in a friendly match in Lagos.
The Brazilian announced his retirement from football in 1974, but was lured back into action soon after by the New York Cosmos, to help raise the profile of the North American Soccer League.
He played his final game in an exhibition between New York and Santos in October 1977, where he turned out for both teams. His incredible career ended with a record of 1,281 goals in 1,363 games.
Pelé became a Hublot ambassador 2013, speaking of the partnership the Brazilian said, “It is an honour for me to represent Hublot, a brand that stands for innovation and watchmaking tradition. They share my same commitment to the sport of football”.
The footballing icon was recently in Dubai for the Hublot Match of Friendship – a thrilling game of football, played in front of the Burj Khalifa, which ended 11-11. The match also featured ex-AC Milan and Brazil goalkeeper Dida, regular club-mate Serginho, Republic of Ireland record goal scorer Robbie Keane, Real Madrid and Spain stalwart Michel Salgado plus Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club and UAE battler Majed Hassan.
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