“However long we live, we never forget the time when we were young.”
Pele opens his self-titled autobiography with those words, and while they are true about all athletes, indeed all people, they seem rather more appropriate when spoken by Edison Arantes do Nascimento—the Brazilian icon commonly regarded as the greatest footballer of all time.
So rarely has one so young made as much of an impact as Pele did, and it’s unlikely we’ll come across his type ever again.
A lot of that is down to circumstances.
Yes, there may be footballers who one day supplant the now-72-year-old from the sport’s individual perch—Lionel Messi certainly comes to mind—but never again will an international superstar combine the elements of fame and mystery as did Pele from the late 1950s until his 1977 retirement.
After all, anyone at any place in the world can watch Messi weave his magic week in, week out. Television and the Internet have provided that luxury. But one was in its infancy when Pele captured the international consciousness in 1958; the other hadn’t yet been invented.
Over the next few slides, we’ll have a look at the moments that defined Pele’s playing career. Two took place at the World Cup, two more at club level and another in a war zone that suddenly went quiet when the great Pele stepped off the plane.