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Trauer um Pelé: Der “König” ist tot – sein Erbe wird überdauern


Status: 12/29/2022 8:21 p.m

Pelé is dead. The football community is reminded that even the greatest is fleeting. Pelé was the greatest – not only in Brazil. Its importance, especially for the poor sections of the world’s population, was and is inestimable.

Who was or is the greatest soccer player of all time? By far the largest proportion of all those interested in football in the world would and will answer the question in the same voice: “Pelé!” There have been Di Stefano, Beckenbauer, Cruyff, Maradona, Ronaldo, Zidane, or the current exceptional players Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – but Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pelé, is still considered the greatest and best footballer of all time.

“King” Pelé was already a legend, myth and living monument during his playing days, he became synonymous with football art par excellence – and remained so after the end of his career. And this, although other things, especially business, became the focus of his life and the Brazilian appeared more as a rich businessman than as a former soccer star.

Pelé – received like a president

Pelé received worldwide attention that is otherwise only enjoyed by holders of the highest political offices. When he traveled, he was received like a president.

Pelé was far more than just a football star for his home country, whose government declared him a “national treasure” when he was not even 20 years old and banned his “sale” abroad. He lived a constant dream, especially for the poor in Brazil: he personified the possibility of social advancement. “Pelé has realized the Brazilian dream, the dream of escaping misery, he symbolizes success, victory, aesthetics, a certain savoir-vivre,” wrote the Zurich “Sport” once.

Pelé was born in Três Coraçoes, a small inland town between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. When he was two years old, his family moved away – first to Lorena, then to Sao Lourenco and finally to Bauru. The reason for the move was his father’s change of club. João Ramos do Nascimento was a professional footballer under the stage name Giovanni Dondinho, but had to end his modest career early after a knee injury – he died in 1996.

Not a lawyer – but rather a professional footballer

Pelé – his mother would have imagined a career as a lawyer for him – wanted to be a professional soccer player from an early age. At a youth tournament for street teams in 1953, Pelé was discovered by a youth coach from FC Bauru and signed for a small fee. In 1955 he was brought in by FC Santos, where he received a contract in 1956 and made his debut in the first team against St. André in September of that year when he was 15 years old. He also scored a goal in the 7-1 win.

On July 7, 1957, at the age of 16 years and 257 days, Pelé celebrated his debut in the national team in a 2-1 draw against Argentina and scored the only goal. The Argentine captain at the time, Nestor Rossi, is said to have said enthusiastically after the game: “Pelé is the greatest!”

Pelé – youngest world champion with Brazil 1958

In 1958, Brazil coach Vicente Feola took 17-year-old Pele, who had been top scorer in the Sao Paulo championship for the first time in 1957, to the World Cup in Sweden. Pelé was initially on the bench against Austria and England, but then Feola brought him on and the youngster was instrumental in winning the title with six goals in four games. Pelé became the youngest ever world champion and the discovery of the tournament.

At the 1962 World Cup in Chile, Brazil defended its title, but Pelé was injured in the second round match against eventual finalists Czechoslovakia. Four years later in England, the defending champions Brazil suffered a serious setback and were eliminated in the first round. Pelé was mercilessly chased and kicked by his opponents. He was injured in the second game against Hungary (1:3) and had to leave the field injured in the defeat against Portugal (1:3).

1970 – Pelé leads Brazil to title

In 1970 in Mexico, as a great thinker and leader, he led Brazil to its third title. He scored the opening goal for his team in the 4-1 win in the final against Italy. A year later, on July 18, 1971, Pelé said goodbye in front of 180,000 fans in the Maracana Stadium with his 92nd and last international match from the “Seleção” – just 30 years and 258 days old.

Pelé played his last game for FC Santos on October 2, 1974 against Ponte Preta. After that, he actually wanted to end his career. However, in July 1975 Pelé, who incidentally never played at London’s Wembley Stadium in his career, returned to the green turf and signed a two-year contract with Cosmos New York in the North American Soccer League (NASL).

Cosmos New York – End of career

He led Cosmos to the 1977 championship, scoring 65 goals in 111 games for the club. On October 1, 1977, he took his second, now final, farewell to football with the Cosmos vs. Santos game in front of 75,000 spectators at Giants Stadium.

In contrast to some of his former teammates, the self-made man Pelé managed to use his footballing skills as the basis for a carefree life. He made the jump from footballer to civilian and businessman. He died at the age of 82.

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