In a poll commissioned by the ‘History Channel’ in 2018, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé, was voted the greatest footballer of all time, ahead of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Pelé retired from professional football, at the age of 36, in October, 1977, but, in his heyday, achieved superstar status not only in his native Brazil, but around the world.
Born in the city of Três Corações, Minas Gerais, in the Southeast Region of Brazil on October 23, 1940, Pelé made his first team debut for São Paulo club Santos FC in 1956 and his first team debut for the Brazilian national team the following year. Indeed, his goal in the 2-1 defeat by Argentina at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 7, 1957, made him the youngest ever scorer for Brazil, a record that he still holds.
In 1958, at the age of 17, Pelé became the youngest player to appear in a FIFA World Cup final, scoring twice in a 5-2 defeat of hosts Sweden. He would win the FIFA World Cup again in 1962 and, after suffering a torrid time in 1966, when Brazil failed to progress from the group stages, again in 1970, to become the only three-time winner in history. All told, ‘Pérola Negra’, or ‘Black Pearl’, as Pelé was sometime known, scored 77 goals in 92 official appearances for Brazil, including 12 in 14 games at the World Cup, and remains the all-time leading goalscorer for his country.
At club level, Pelé played for Santos FC for nineteen seasons, winning the Campeonato Paulista nine times and the Copa Libertadores de América and the Intercontinental Cup twice apiece. He retired from Brazilian club football in 1974, but joined New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League, to no little fanfare, the following season.