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byname of Edson Arantes do Nascimento

AFP/Pictorial Parade

(born Oct. 23, 1940, Três Corações, Braz.) association football (soccer) player, in his time probably the most famous and possibly the best paid athlete in the world. In competition for the World Cup (Jules Rimet Trophy) he led the Brazilian national team to three victories (1958, 1962, and 1970) and permanent possession of the trophy.

After playing for a minor league club at Bauru, São Paulo state, Pelé (whose nickname apparently is without significance) was rejected by major league teams in the city of São Paulo. In 1956, however, he joined the Santos Football Club, which, with Pelé at inside left forward, won several South American clubs' cups and, in 1962, its first world club championship. On Nov. 20, 1969, in his 909th first-class match, he scored his 1,000th goal. A medium-sized man (5 feet 8 inches, 160 pounds), he combined kicking power and accuracy with a remarkable ability to anticipate other players' moves. Sometimes called “Pérola Negra” (“Black Pearl”), he became a Brazilian national hero.

Pelé announced his retirement in 1974 but in 1975 agreed to sign a three-year, $7,000,000 contract with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League (NASL) and to promote the game in the United States. He retired after leading the Cosmos to the league championship in 1977.

Pelé was the 1978 recipient of the International Peace Award, and in 1980 he was named Athlete of the Century. In addition to his accomplishments in sports, he published several best-selling autobiographies, starred in several successful documentary and semi-documentary films, and composed numerous musical pieces, including the entire soundtrack for the film Pelé (1977).

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