Pelé: The Great Brazilian Football Legend

Pelé was a football icon, who transcended his sport.

Pelé: The Great Brazilian Football Legend
Brazilian striker Pelé died on December 29, 2022 at the age of 82, after battling kidney problems and colon cancer.


Pelé wasn’t just a football legend in Brazil, but the first truly global football star. He started making an impression in the last few seconds of the 1958 World Cup final. At that time, he was just 17 and received a long ball near the Swedish penalty area. Unexpectedly, he caught it on his chest and stunned it smartly, so it dropped at his feet. Then, he stepped over it and backheeled it to a teammate.

Soon after, the ball was lobbed back into the area, and Pelé flicked it with the side of his head into the goal. And with that, Brazil won its first-ever World Cup. Since then, he has become the embodiment of Brazilian football.

Most people who saw him on the field would agree that he was a supremely talented athlete. Interestingly, his career coincided with the golden age of Brazilian football. At that time, football was the very centre of cultural life. Also, those years marked the explosive spread of television. So, Pelé was everywhere.

Pelé was also the first Brazilian footballer whose cultural impact exceeded the game. He was also the first global celebrity of the game. Two spectacular moments illustrate this. First is when he scored his 1000th goal as journalists and cameras tracked his every move. When he scored it live on TV, it was considered to be just as important as the Apollo 12 moon landings.


The second glorified moment is the 1970 World Cup final, in which Pelé’s Brazil beat Italy 4-1. It is considered as the finest performance of any team ever. Also, it was the first World Cup final to be broadcast live across the world by satellite. It was also the first-ever to be available in colour.

Before retiring from football, Pelé relaunched the game in the United States during his five years at the New York Cosmos. That’s probably why everyone from the US Presidents (current and former) to NASA has paid tribute to the great legend! Have a look:

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