By Ralph E. Moore, Jr.,
Special to the AFRO
If you were paying attention to the 2022 World Cup that just ended, remember Pelé, an 82-year-old Brazilian, whom some have called the world’s greatest soccer player of all time.
Some of the planet watches Major League Baseball’s so-called World Series and much of the globe enjoys the National Football League’s Sunday Super Bowl– but the whole world enthusiastically views the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA’s) World Cup.
Bear in mind, most of the fans call soccer football.
Argentina was victorious over France on Dec. 18 and won the World Cup for the third time (the first since 1986) in an incredible match. Because two stars stood out on each team, Kylian Mbappe of France versus Lionel Messi of Argentina, they are among the highest paid in professional soccer. Two generations or so before them, there was Pelé.
Pelé was born on Oct. 23, 1940 and he was the highest paid athlete in the world for some years. He is still alive. Recent media rumors that he died are incorrect.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento (Pelé) is a retired Brazilian soccer player, who scored his first goal in the World Cup (the more appropriately titled competition than baseball’s World Series) at the age of 18. He has been named the greatest football (soccer) player of all time by FIFA. Pelé scored a goal in just about all the 1,363 matches he ever played in his career including the exhibition games (called friendlies).
Pelé’s father, Joao Ramos do Nascimento, was a soccer player also. His mother was Celeste Arantes and Pelé was the elder of two siblings. His nickname is derived from the Hebrew word ‘Bile’ which means ‘miracle’ and was the last name of his favorite soccer player at the time. Pelé continuously mispronounced the name and it soon became his own nickname and remained so.
Pelé grew up poor to the point where he used a grapefruit among other things to practice his soccer skills. He worked service jobs as a teenager while playing amateur soccer and led his team to state championships. He started playing on teams with adults at 14. Peke signed his first professional sports contract in 1956 at age 15 with a team called Santos FC. Being so successful as a team player, Pelé rose swiftly to the point of being called up to the Brazil national team at 16. In 1962, Pelé was rated the best soccer player in the world. As proof of how phenomenal he played, in 1958 Pelé won his first major title with the team, Santos, winning a tournament called Campeonato Paulista and finishing as the top scorer (58 goals). The team was champions on and off for many years.
Pelé retired from Brazilian club professional soccer in 1974. He came out of retirement in 1975 to play for the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League at age 35. His debut for the team was on June 15, 1975. Pelé’s coming to America to play helped to bring attention to and raised interest in the sport in the USA. He played his last match in 1977 to record crowds. He closed out his final match between his then team, the Cosmos, and his former team, the Santos, on October 1, 1977. Muhammad Ali was in the stands to see the momentous match. Pelé’s message to the audience at the start of the game was “Love is more important than what we can take in life.”
There are so many school children, high school and college students playing team soccer today because of the skill and dedication of Pelé. James DeGraffenreidt, a local businessman, attorney, education leader and philanthropist was drawn to Pelé and soccer when the Brazilian athlete joined the New York team (the Cosmos) and brought the attention of United States fans to the world’s most popular sport. His affection for the sport and Pelé carried over past his son, Aaron’s, football career in high school and college to his twin sons, Michael and Jeremy who were phenomenal soccer stars in high school and college. James and the boys’ mother, Mychelle Farmer, a medical doctor, decided early on that NFL styled football was too dangerous physically due to what was once called the effects of concussions, now identified as “traumatic brain injuries.”
“It was definitely a decision we made not to let them play football but rather have them play soccer. The football coaches wanted them, so we said “no.” James further attracted his sons to soccer by showing them a film about Pelé. “They were hooked,” he said. James and Mychelle made a significant gift to Loyola Blakefield a couple of years ago so that more boys of color would become attracted to playing soccer
Both young men played soccer throughout their high school and college careers and then professionally. They were successful, academically and athletically.
From Pelé, to his parents discovering a challenging but safer sport to success for student athletes and soccer, growing in favor and fervor in the United States.
Pelé is the Greatest of All Time (The GOAT) in soccer with some of his decades old records remaining intact. The United States owes him a debt of gratitude for his introduction of this nation to soccer.
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The post The Moore Report: Don’t forget Pelé: soccer’s first world super star appeared first on AFRO American Newspapers .