Nov. 19, 1969: Pelé Enters the Annals of History

GuidoAnalyst INovember 18, 2009

1969 was a memorable year in world history, as two cosmonauts transferred from Soyuz 5 to Soyuz 4 via a spacewalk while the two craft were docked together, the first time such a transfer took place.

Student Jan Palach set himself on fire in Prague's Wenceslas Square to protest the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Richard Nixon succeeded Lyndon Johnson as the 37th President of the United States of America and the world watched in awe as Neil Armstrong took his historic and heroic first steps on the moon.

Compared to such events with a global impact, a football player scoring his 1,000th career goal might seem like a footnote in history, but the fact is that this was not just any footballer scoring any old goal, this was Pelé scoring his 1,000th.

Edson Arantes do Nascimento, or Pelé as he is more commonly known, is one of the best and perhaps even the best football player to ever grace this planet's football pitches.

Blessed with speed, balance, control, power, and an uncanny ability to anticipate the movements of his opponents and teammates, he led both Brazil and the various clubs he played for to great heights, receiving much praise along the way for his gentleman-like behavior both on and off the pitch.

As a 17-year-old, he won the 1958 World Cup with Brazil, bagging two goals to defeat Sweden in the final. He later went on to win two more World Cups. He also led Brazilian club Santos to three national club championships, two South American championships, and the world club title in 1963.

In 1978, Pelé was given the International Peace Award and in 1993 he was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame. Since retiring, he has acted as an international ambassador for his sport and has worked with the United Nations and UNICEF to promote peace and international reconciliation through friendly athletic competition.

As impressive as all these feats are, he is not the only footballer to have won that many trophies or received similar merits. He is, however, one of the few players who has scored over a 1,000 goals and unlike Romario and Arthur Friedenreich, his goal-scoring record is not considered dubious due to faulty record-keeping.

His 1,000th career goal was scored in the year 1969  and this “milésimo” kept an entire nation in its grip, as he would be the first player ever to officially reach this milestone in his career.

Pelé is 29-years-old on Nov. 19 1969, as his team Santos faces off against Rio de Janeiro based Vasco da Gama. The match takes places in the immense Maracanã, which is filled with over 65,000 spectators, who came not so much to cheer on their own team, but to see Pelé, O Rei, the King, score his 1,000th against their team.

Vasco however seemed intent not to go down in the history books as the team against which the living legend scores his 1,000th goal, as the team put in a lot of effort to prevent the milésimo from being scored. Their reluctance even went as far as a Vasco defender heading a ball past his own keeper, to prevent O Rei from scoring. [1]

Then, towards the end of the game, a through ball by Clodoaldo slices through the Vasco defence and puts Pelé through on goal. Vasco defender Fernando makes physical contact and O Rei falls inside the box. Referee Manoel Amaro de Lima does not hesitate and points towards the spot. Penalty.

An excited hush came over the stadium as people expected to watch history unfold in front of their eyes. Santos’ regular for the penalties, Rildo, was gestured by his captain Carlos Alberto to stay away. This was Pelé’s moment.

The only one who could stand between him and his milésimo was Vasco da Gama’s recently-purchased goalie, Argentine Edgardo “Gato” Andrada, a renowned penalty-killer who had kept several of Pelé’s efforts out earlier in the match, most notably diving backwards and tipping a chipped effort past the post.

An entire stadium holds its breath as one of the world’s greatest players ever starts jogging towards the ball. His right foot connected with the ball, sending it to the keeper’s left, but the Argentine had guessed the correct corner and lunged towards the ball at full stretch.

Andrada’s effort to save the penalty was valiant, but in vain, as the ball had been placed just outside his reach and it nestled into the back of the net. The goal sent an entire stadium, including O Rei himself, into raptures. Seeing the net bulge for the 1,000th time made Pelé run after the ball. He held it up and kissed it repeatedly, thanking the ball for everything it had brought him.

Though this moment is not as important an event in world history as Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon or Jan Palach’s brave protest against the invasion of Czechoslovakia, it remains part of the collective history of an entire nation.

Not a bad achievement for a “mere” sportsman.

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcitzjlbQZw at 1.33