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Pele, King of Futbol

Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Leader of a Nation
By Gentry Kirby
Special to

Signature Game
June 24, 1958 -- At the World Cup in Stockholm, Sweden, French star Just Fontaine had garnered all the headlines with his eight goals in his first four games. But it was a 17-year-old who was the star of the show in the semifinal between Brazil and France.

Brazil was up 2-1 when Pele pounced on a misplayed ball by French goalkeeper Claude Abbes for an easy tap-in goal. Twelve minutes later, Pele again found himself in the right place when a deflected pass came to him in the box and he skillfully went top shelf with his right foot.

For his final goal, Pele played the part of magician instead of opportunist. A bouncing ball was played to Pele at the top of the penalty box. Instead of settling the ball and trying to beat the defender with his dribble, Pele volleyed the ball into an arc above his head. Before the ball touched the ground, Pele rifled a shot past the defender and the goalie into the lower left corner.

Pele's natural hat trick led Brazil to a 5-2 victory. And then he helped secure the World Cup for his country with two goals in another 5-2 win, this one over Sweden in the final.

Odds 'N' Ends

  • At 15, Pele signed his first contract - for $10 a month in 1956 with his club team, Santos.

  • After Pele bought a gas stove for his mother, she thanked him profusely and then told everyone to keep secret the fact that they couldn't use it. Their town did not have the capability to pipe gas into homes.

  • In 1959, Pele had his highest season total with 129 goals.

  • On March 5, 1961, Pele scored "The Goal of the Plaque." Collecting the ball in his own penalty area, he beat the entire Fluminense team, dribbling the entire way without passing before scoring. A plaque at the entrance of Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro was put up honoring the goal as the "most beautiful" ever in its history.

  • Pele led Santos to two Intercontinental Cup titles, in 1962 and 1963. In the 1962 final against Portuguese club Benfica, Pele scored a hat trick in a 5-2 win.

  • At a match in 1969 in Colombia, Pele was kicked out of the game for arguing with the referee. He was quickly ushered back onto the field because the police feared a riot.

  • Pele scored five goals in a game six times, four goals on 30 occasions and a hat trick 92 times.

  • During his time as Minister of Sport from 1994-98, Pele championed Brazilian player's rights, introducing the Pele Law. The law went into effect in 2001.

  • An amateur musician and composer, Pele has recorded his songs, accompanying himself on the guitar.

  • In 1999, the world's national Olympic committees voted Pele the Athlete of the Century - even though he didn't participate in any Olympics.

  • The French sports magazine L'Equipe named Pele its Sportsman of the Century.

  • In 1966 Pele married Rose Cholby. They had three children before they divorced in 1978.

  • Pele's son, Edinho, followed in his father's footsteps by playing for his father's longtime club team, Santos. There was one major difference - Edinho was a goalkeeper.

  • Pele remarried, in 1994 to Assiria Seixas Lemeos, and they have twins, a boy Joshua and a girl Celeste.

  • Pele also is the father of at least two other daughters out of wedlock.

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