As soon as Pelé (photo) came to Vila Belmiro on August 8th, 1956, Waldemar de Brito warned Santos FC: “This boy will be the best soccer player in the world.” It did not take long for this prophesy to start to come true. One month after he came to Santos, which was already a team that had won the São Paulo State Championship twice in a row, Pelé played in the main team for the first time. "My début was in a friendly tournament against Corinthians of Santo André. I entered in the second half, replacing Del Vecchio, and scored the sixth goal for Santos in a victory by seven goals to one. This was my first goal with the Santos shirt,” he said.
At the age of 16, he took part in a quick tournament with the participation of four Brazilian and European teams. He played for a combination team with players from Santos and Vasco, and in one of the games Pelé scored a hat-trick of beautiful goals. Since then, the whole of Brazil started to see the skill of the future King of Soccer.
Called upon to use the green and yellow shirt of the national team in 1957, Pelé led his team to win the title of Champion of the Rocca Cup. “This was my first international title and also the first tournament I won for the national team,” he said. The success story of Pelé’s feet would continue in the São Paulo State Championship of 1957, in which Pelé was the leading goal scorer. “In my first championship, I scored 36 goals. For a youngster of 16 or 17 years of age, this was a significant accomplishment,” said Pelé, owner of the immortal Number 10 shirt.
Pelé conquered the world
In less than a year and saw himself up against a great opportunity to carry out the promise made to his father: to win a World Cup. His first goal in the World Cup was against Wales, and put Brazil through to the semifinals. At the 1958 World Cup final, Brazil won their first World Cup title after defeating Sweden by five goals to two. Pelé could not stand it and fainted on the field (in the photograph above, Pelé is calmed down by Gilmar). "The excitement of participating in something of such grandeur was so important to me, something I cannot express. It was the first time I had ever travelled abroad, and I also fulfilled my most important dream. At the age of 17, I became the youngest player to win the World Cup. In addition, we made the name of Brazil known abroad and opened the doors so that other black people could participate in the World Cup, as I had been the only one until then,” the King also declared.
After fulfilling the dream he always sought, Pelé has two more targets: to win the 1958 São Paulo State Championship and also the Rio – São Paulo championship, playing for Santos FC. With such famous players as Coutinho, Zito, Pepe, and of course the King himself, the Santos team was unbeatable and went through its best period. Pelé (photo) was the leading goal scorer of the 1958 São Paulo State Championship, with 58 goals in 38 games, and in the end Santos won the title.
History repeated itself in 1959 when Peixe won the Rio – São Paulo tournament for the first time. Between 1959 and 1961, Santos FC, with Pelé, managed to win 11 international tournaments. Well-respected and famous throughout the world, in the 1960s the Santos team managed to win eight São Paulo State Championships, and Pelé was crowned as the leading goal scorer in almost all of them.
At this time, the King of Soccer was invited to play on several foreign teams, especially in Europe, but turned them all down. Truly loyal to Santos FC, he had another target in mind. “Santos had not yet won a South American Club Title, and Pelé dreamt of giving this title to the club,” he said. In 1962, yet another target was achieved: the team was crowned as South American Champions, defeating the Uruguayan team, Peñarol, who had been champions in 1960 and 1961.
Pelé and his teammate in the Brazilian National Team, Garrincha of Rio de Janeiro´s Botafogo
That same year with yet another World Cup in sight, Pelé was the great name of the moment. However, as he pulled a muscle, he could not play in the final; nevertheless, the Brazilian team came out on top and defeated Czechoslovakia in Chile by three goals to one . Brazil was now a two-time world champion. “I was very concerned as I was not able to help my teammates. However, thank God, Brazil managed to win the World Cup for the second time and I felt that I had accomplished something,” said Pelé.
Pelé with his heart on his shirt
At the following World Cup, in 1966, the Brazilian Team went through a nightmare as they were eliminated in the first phase. “This was deeply sad for me, as I was already Pelé and the demands were very high, so much so that I even thought about withdrawing from the game,” Pelé said.
In 1970, Brazil was going through one of the toughest periods of its history with the military dictatorship. In the World Cup, Pelé (here commemorating a goal with Tostão) was the hope of better days for the Brazilian people. “Many people encouraged me to participate in the 1970 World Cup. Of course I felt all the weight of this responsibility on my back, as the Brazilian National Team had just come out of a defeat,” the King remembered. Finally, Brazil became the outright winners of the Jules Rimet Cup, winning the final against Italy by four goals to one, in Mexico. “This was the best phase of my whole career. I played in all the games and wrapped up my participation in World Cups extremely satisfied,” said Pelé, the only person to have won the World Cup on three occasions and the greatest goal scorer in World Cups.
At the age of 22, the King had already scored 500 goals. As time went by, Pelé got closer to the thousandth goal and people went crazy. “When I got closer to the thousandth goal, everyone made a point of turning this into a major issue,” said Pelé. This long-expected goal came from a well-shot penalty during a match played by Santos FC against Vasco, at Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. “For the first time, I shook. I had never before felt such responsibility on my shoulders,” the King added (in this photo, kissing the soccer ball after scoring the thousandth goal in his career).
Pelé kisses the ball after scoring his thousandth goal