Edson Arantes do Nascimento (born 23 October 1940), known as Pel (Brazilian Portuguese: ), is a retired Brazilian professional footballer who played as a forward. He is widely regarded as the greatest football player of all time. In 1999, he was voted World Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS). That same year, Pel was elected Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee. According to the IFFHS, Pel is the most successful league goal-scorer in the world, scoring 1281 goals in 1363 games, which included unofficial friendlies and tour games. During his playing days, Pel was for a period the best-paid athlete in the world.
Pel began playing for Santos at age 15 and the Brazil national football team at 16. During his international career, he won three FIFA World Cups: 1958, 1962 and 1970, being the only player ever to do so. Pel is the all-time leading goalscorer for Brazil with 77 goals in 92 games. At club level he is also the record goalscorer for Santos, and led them to the 1962 and 1963 Copa Libertadores. Pel’s “electrifying play and penchant for spectacular goals” made him a star around the world, and his club team Santos toured internationally in order to take full advantage of his popularity. Since retiring in 1977, Pel has been a worldwide ambassador for football and has made many acting and commercial ventures. In 2010, he was named the Honorary President of the New York Cosmos.
Pel has also been known for connecting the phrase “The Beautiful Game” with football. A prolific goalscorer, Pel was known for anticipating his opponents’ movements in the field, and being able to shoot strong and accurate shots with both feet. Early in his career, he played in a variety of attacking formations. In his later career, he played in a playmaking role behind offensive strikers. In Brazil, he is hailed as a national hero for his accomplishments in football and for his outspoken support of policies that improve the social conditions of the poor. Throughout his career and in his retirement, Pel received several individual and team awards for his performance in the field, his record-breaking achievements, and legacy in the sport.
Pel was born on 23 October 1940, in Trs Coraes, Minas Gerais, Brazil, the son of Fluminense footballer Dondinho (born Joo Ramos do Nascimento) and Celeste Arantes. He was the elder of two siblings. He was named after the American inventor Thomas Edison. His parents decided to remove the “i” and call him “Edson”, but there was a mistake on the birth certificate, leading many documents to show his name as “Edison”, not “Edson”, as he is called. He was originally nicknamed “Dico” by his family. He received the nickname “Pel” during his school days, when it is claimed he was given it because of his pronunciation of the name of his favorite player, local Vasco da Gama goalkeeper Bil, which he misspoke but the more he complained the more it stuck. In his autobiography, Pel stated he had no idea what the name means, nor did his old friends. Apart from the assertion that the name is derived from that of Bil, and that it is Hebrew for “miracle” (), the word has no known meaning in Portuguese.
Pel grew up in poverty in Bauru in the state of So Paulo. He earned extra money by working in tea shops as a servant. Taught to play by his father, he could not afford a proper football and usually played with either a sock stuffed with newspaper and tied with a string or a grapefruit. He played for several amateur teams in his youth, including Sete de Setembro, Canto do Rio, So Paulinho, and Amriquinha. Pel led Bauru Athletic Club juniors (coached by Waldemar de Brito) to two So Paulo state youth championships. In his mid-teens, he played for an indoor football team called Radium. Indoor football had just become popular in Bauru when Pel began playing it. He was part of the first Futebol de Salo (indoor football) competition in the region. Pel and his team won the first championship and several others.
According to Pel, indoor football presented difficult challenges; he said it was a lot quicker than football on the grass and that players were required to think faster because everyone is close to each other in the pitch. Pel accredits indoor football for helping him think better on the spot. In addition, indoor football allowed him to play with adults when he was about 14-years-old. In one of the tournaments he participated, he was initially considered too young to play, but eventually went on to end up top scorer with fourteen or fifteen goals. “That gave me a lot of confidence”, Pel said, “I knew then not to be afraid of whatever might come”.
In 1956, de Brito took Pel to Santos, an industrial and port city located near So Paulo, to try out for professional club Santos FC, telling the directors at Santos that the 15-year-old would be “the greatest football player in the world.” Pel impressed Santos coach Lula during his trial at the Estdio Vila Belmiro, and he signed a professional contract with the club in June 1956. Pel was highly promoted in the local media as a future superstar. He made his senior team debut on 7 September 1956 at the age of 15 against Corinthians Santo Andre and had an impressive performance in a 7-1 victory, scoring the first goal in his prolific career during the match.
When the 1957 season started, Pel was given a starting place in the first team and, at the age of 16, became the top scorer in the league. Ten months after signing professionally, the teenager was called up to the Brazil national team. After the 1962 World Cup, wealthy European clubs such as Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester United tried to sign him, but the government of Brazil under President Jnio Quadros had declared Pel an “official national treasure” the year before to prevent him from being transferred out of the country.
Pel won his first major title with Santos in 1958 as the team won the Campeonato Paulista; Pel would finish the tournament as top scorer with 58 goals, a record that stands today. A year later, he would help the team earn their first victory in the Torneio Rio-So Paulo with a 3-0 over Vasco da Gama. However, Santos was unable to retain the Paulista title. In 1960, Pel scored 33 goals to help his team regain the Campeonato Paulista trophy but lost out on the Rio-So Paulo tournament after finishing in 8th place. In the 1960 season, Pel scored 47 goals and helped Santos retain the Campeonato Paulista. The club went on to win the Taa Brasil that same year, beating Bahia in the finals; Pel finished as top scorer of the tournament with 9 goals. The victory allowed Santos to participate in the Copa Libertadores, the most prestigious club tournament in the Western hemisphere.
Santos’s most successful Copa Libertadores season started in 1962; the team was seeded in Group One alongside Cerro Porteo and Deportivo Municipal Bolivia, winning every match of their group but one (a 1-1 away tie versus Cerro). Santos defeated Universidad Catlica in the semifinals and met defending champions Pearol in the finals. Pel scored twice in the playoff match to secure the first title for a Brazilian club. Pel finished as the second top scorer of the competition with four goals. That same year, Santos would successfully defend the Campeonato Brasileiro (with 37 goals from Pel) and the Taa Brasil (Pel scoring four goals in the final series against Botafogo). Santos would also win the 1962 Intercontinental Cup against Benfica. Wearing his number 10 shirt, Pel produced one of the best performances of his career, scoring a hat-trick in Lisbon as Santos won 5-2. As the defending champions, Santos qualified automatically to the semi-final stage of the 1963 Copa Libertadores. The ballet blanco, the nickname given to Santos for Pel, managed to retain the title after victories over Botafogo and Boca Juniors. Pel helped Santos overcome a Botafogo team that contained Brazilian legends such as Garrincha and Jairzinho with a last-minute goal in the first leg of the semi-finals which made it 1-1. In the second leg, Pel scored a hat-trick in the Estdio do Maracan as Santos won, 0-4, in the second leg. Santos started the final series by winning, 3-2, in the first leg and defeating Boca Juniors 1-2, in La Bombonera. It was a rare feat in official competitions, with another goal from Pel. Santos became the first (and to date the only) Brazilian team to lift the Copa Libertadores in Argentine soil. Pel finished the tournament with 5 goals. Santos lost the Campeonato Paulista after finishing in third place but went on to win the Rio-So Paulo tournament after a 0-3 win over Flamengo in the final, with Pel scoring one goal. Pel would also help Santos retain the Intercontinental Cup and the Taa Brasil against Milan and Bahia respectively.
In the 1964 Copa Libertadores, Santos were beaten in both legs of the semi-finals by Independiente. The club won the Campeonato Paulista, with Pel netting 34 goals. Santos also shared the Rio-So Paulo title with Botafogo and won the Taa Brasil for the fourth consecutive year. In the 1965 Copa Libertadores, Santos reached the semi-finals and met Pearol in a rematch of the 1962 final. After two matches, a playoff was needed to break the tie. Unlike 1962, Pearol came out on top and eliminated Santos 2-1. Pel would, however, finish as the topscorer of the tournament with eight goals. This proved to be the start of a decline as Santos failed to retain the Torneio Rio-So Paulo. In 1966, Pel and Santos also failed to retain the Taa Brasil as Pel’s goals were not enough to prevent a 9-4 defeat by Cruzeiro (led by Tosto) in the final series. The club did, however, win the Campeonato Paulista in 1967, 1968 and 1969. On 19 November 1969, Pel scored his 1000th goal in all competitions, in what was a highly anticipated moment in Brazil. The goal, popularly dubbed O Milsimo (The Thousandth), occurred in a match against Vasco da Gama, when Pel scored from a penalty kick, at the Maracan Stadium.
Pel states that his most memorable goal was scored at Rua Javari stadium on a Campeonato Paulista match against So Paulo rival Clube Atltico Juventus on 2 August 1959. As there is no video footage of this match, Pel asked that a computer animation be made of this specific goal. In March 1961, Pel scored the gol de placa (goal worthy of a plaque), against Fluminense at the Maracan. Pel received the ball on the edge of his own penalty area, and ran the length of the field, eluding opposition players with feints, before striking the ball beyond the goalkeeper. A plaque was commissioned with a dedication to “the most beautiful goal in the history of the Maracan”.
In 1967, the two factions involved in the Nigerian Civil War agreed to a 48-hour ceasefire so they could watch Pel play an exhibition game in Lagos. During his time at Santos, Pel played alongside many gifted players, including Zito, Pepe, and Coutinho; the latter partnered him in numerous one-two plays, attacks, and goals.
New York Cosmos
After the 1974 season, (his 19th with Santos), Pel retired from Brazilian club football although he continued to occasionally play for Santos in official competitive matches. Two years later, he came out of semi-retirement to sign with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League (NASL) for the 1975 season. Though well past his prime at this point, Pel was credited with significantly increasing public awareness and interest of the sport in the United States. Hoping to fuel the same kind of awareness in the Dominican Republic, he and the Cosmos team played in an exhibition match against Haitian team, Violette AC, in the Santo Domingo Olympic Stadium on 3 June 1976, where over 25,000 fans watched him score a winning goal in the last seconds of the match, leading the Cosmos to a 2-1 victory. He led the Cosmos to the 1977 NASL championship, in his third and final season with the club.
On 1 October 1977, Pel closed out his career in an exhibition match between the Cosmos and Santos. Santos arrived in New York after previously defeating the Seattle Sounders in New Jersey, 2-0. The match was played in front of a sold out crowd at Giants Stadium and was televised in the United States on ABC’s Wide World of Sports as well as throughout the world. Pel’s father and wife both attended the match, as well as Muhammad Ali and Bobby Moore.
Pel’s first international match was a 2-1 defeat against Argentina on 7 July 1957 at the Maracan. In that match, he scored his first goal for Brazil aged 16 years and nine months to become the youngest player to score in international football.
1958 World Cup
Pel arrived in Sweden sidelined by a knee injury but on his return from the treatment room, his colleagues stood together and insisted upon his selection. His first match was against the USSR in the third match of the first round of the 1958 FIFA World Cup, where he gave the assist to Vav’s second goal. He was the youngest player of that tournament, and at the time the youngest ever to play in the World Cup. Against France in the semifinal, Brazil was leading 2-1 at halftime, and then Pel scored a hat-trick, becoming the youngest in World Cup history to do so.
On 29 June 1958, Pel became the youngest player to play in a World Cup final match at 17 years and 249 days. He scored two goals in that final as Brazil beat Sweden 5-2 in Stockholm, the capital. His first goal where he flicked the ball over a defender before volleying into the corner of the net, was selected as one of the best goals in the history of the World Cup. Following Pel’s second goal, Swedish player Sigvard Parling would later comment; “When Pel scored the fifth goal in that Final, I have to be honest and say I felt like applauding”. When the match ended, Pel passed out on the field, and was revived by Garrincha. He then recovered, and was compelled by the victory to weep as he was being congratulated by his teammates. He finished the tournament with six goals in four matches played, tied for second place, behind record-breaker Just Fontaine, and was named best young player of the tournament.
It was in the 1958 World Cup that Pel began wearing a jersey with number 10. The event was the result of disorganization: the leaders of the Brazilian Federation did not send the shirt numbers of players and it was up to FIFA to choose the number 10 shirt to Pel who was a substitute on the occasion. The press proclaimed Pel the greatest revelation of the 1958 World Cup, and he was also retroactively given the Silver Ball as the second best player of the tournament, behind Didi.
South American Championship
Pel also played in the South American Championship. In the 1959 competition he was named best player of the tournament and was top scorer with 8 goals, as Brazil came second despite being unbeaten in the tournament.
1962 World Cup
When the 1962 World Cup started, Pel was the best rated player in the world at the time. In the first match of the 1962 World Cup in Chile, against Mexico, Pel assisted the first goal and then scored the second one, after a run past four defenders, to go up 2-0. He injured himself in the next game while attempting a long-range shot against Czechoslovakia. This would keep him out of the rest of the tournament, and forced coach Aymor Moreira to make his only lineup change of the tournament. The substitute was Amarildo, who performed well for the rest of the tournament. However, it was Garrincha who would take the leading role and carry Brazil to their second World Cup title, after beating Czechoslovakia at the final in Santiago.
1966 World Cup
Pel was the most famous footballer in the world during the 1966 World Cup in England, and Brazil fielded some world champions like Garrincha, Gilmar and Djalma Santos with the addition of other stars like Jairzinho, Tosto and Grson, leading to high expectations for them. Brazil was eliminated in the first round, playing only three matches. The World Cup was marked, among other things, for foulings on Pel that left him injured by the Bulgarian and Portuguese defenders.
Pel scored the first goal from a free kick against Bulgaria, becoming the first player to score in three successive FIFA World Cups, but due to his injury, a result of persistent fouling by the Bulgarians, he missed the second game against Hungary. Brazil lost that game and Pel, although still recovering, was brought back for the last crucial match against Portugal at Goodison Park in Liverpool by the Brazilian coach Vicente Feola. Feola changed the entire defense, including the goalkeeper, while in midfield he returned to the formation of the first match. During the game, Portugal defender Joo Morais fouled Pel, but was not sent off by referee George McCabe. Pel had to stay on the field limping for the rest of the game, since substitutes were not allowed at that time. After this game he vowed he would never again play in the World Cup, a decision he would later change.
1970 World Cup
Pel was called to the national team in early 1969, he refused at first, but then accepted and played in six World Cup qualifying matches, scoring six goals. The 1970 World Cup in Mexico was expected to be Pel’s last. Brazil’s squad for the tournament featured major changes in relation to the 1966 squad. Players like Garrincha, Nilton Santos, Valdir Pereira, Djalma Santos and Gilmar had already retired. However, Brazil’s 1970 World Cup squad, which included players like Pel, Rivelino, Jairzinho, Grson, Carlos Alberto Torres, Tosto and Clodoaldo, is often considered to be the greatest football team in history.
The front five of Jairzinho, Pel, Gerson, Tosto and Rivelino together created an attacking momentum, with Pel having a central role in Brazil’s way to the final. All of Brazil’s matches in the tournament (except the final) were played in Guadalajara, and in the first match against Czechoslovakia, Pel gave Brazil a 2-1 lead, by controlling Gerson’s long pass with his chest and then scoring. In this match Pel attempted to lob goalkeeper Ivo Viktor from the half-way line, only narrowly missing the Czechoslovak goal. Brazil went on to win the match, 4-1. In the first half of the match against England, Pel nearly scored with a header that was saved by the England goalkeeper Gordon Banks. In the second half, he controlled a cross from Tosto before flicking the ball to Jairzinho who scored the only goal.
Against Romania, Pel scored two goals, with Brazil winning by a final score of 3-2. In the quarterfinals against Peru, Brazil won 4-2, with Pel assisting Tosto for Brazil’s third goal. In their semi-final match, Brazil faced Uruguay for the first time since the 1950 World Cup final round match. Jairzinho put Brazil ahead 2-1, and Pel assisted Rivelino for the 3-1. During that match, Pel made one of his most famous plays. Tosto passed the ball for Pel to collect which Uruguay’s goalkeeper Ladislao Mazurkiewicz took notice of and ran off his line to get the ball before Pel. However, Pel got there first and fooled Mazurkiewicz with a feint by not touching the ball, causing it to roll to the goalkeepers left, while Pel went to the goalkeepers right. Pel ran around the goalkeeper to retrieve the ball and took a shot while turning towards the goal, but he turned in excess as he shot, and the ball drifted just wide of the far post.
Brazil played Italy in the final at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. Pel scored the opening goal with a header over Italian defender Tarcisio Burgnich. He then made assists on Brazil’s third goal, scored by Jairzinho, and the fourth finished by Carlos Alberto. The last goal of the game is often considered the greatest team goal of all time because it involved all but two of the team’s outfield players. The play culminated after Pel made a blind pass that went into Carlos Alberto’s running trajectory. He came running from behind and struck the ball to score. Brazil won the match 4-1, keeping the Jules Rimet Trophy indefinitely, and Pel received the Golden Ball as player of the tournament. Burgnich, who marked Pel during the final, was quoted saying “I told myself before the game, he’s made of skin and bones just like everyone else but I was wrong”.
Pel’s last international match was on 18 July 1971 against Yugoslavia in Rio de Janeiro. With Pel on the field, the Brazilian team’s record was 67 wins, 14 draws and 11 losses. Brazil never lost a match while fielding both Pel and Garrincha.
Style of play
Pel has also been known for connecting the phrase “The Beautiful Game” with football. A prolific goalscorer, he was known for his ability to anticipate opponents in the area and finish off chances with an accurate and powerful shot with either foot. Pel was also a hard-working team-player, with exceptional vision and intelligence, who was recognised for his precise passing, and ability to link-up with teammates and provide them with assists.
In his early career, he played in a variety of attacking positions. Although he usually operated inside the penalty area as a main striker or centre-forward, his wide range of skills also allowed him to play in a more withdrawn role, as an inside forward or second striker, or out wide. In his later career, he took on more of a deeper playmaking role behind the strikers, often functioning as an attacking midfielder. Pels unique playing style combined speed, creativity, and technical skill with physical power, stamina, and athleticism. His excellent technique, balance, flair, agility, and dribbling skills enabled him to beat opponents with the ball, and frequently saw him use sudden changes of direction and elaborate feints in order to get past players, such as his trademark move, the drible da vaca. Another one of his signature moves was the paradinha, or little stop.
In spite of his relatively small stature, 1.73 metres (5.7 ft), he excelled in the air, due to his heading accuracy and elevation. Renowned for his bending shots, he was also an accurate free-kick taker, and penalty taker, although he often refrained from taking penalties, stating that he believed it to be a cowardly way to score.
Reception and legacy
Pel is one of the most lauded players in history and is frequently ranked the best player ever. Among his contemporaries, Dutch star Johan Cruyff stated; “Pel was the only footballer who surpassed the boundaries of logic.” Brazil’s 1970 FIFA World Cup-winning captain Carlos Alberto Torres opined; “His great secret was improvisation. Those things he did were in one moment. He had an extraordinary perception of the game.”Tosto, his strike partner at the 1970 World Cup; “Pel was the greatest – he was simply flawless. And off the pitch he is always smiling and upbeat. You never see him bad-tempered. He loves being Pel.” His Brazilian teammate Clodoaldo commented on the adulation he witnessed; “In some countries they wanted to touch him, in some they wanted to kiss him. In others they even kissed the ground he walked on. I thought it was beautiful, just beautiful.” Former Real Madrid and Hungary star Ferenc Pusks stated; “The greatest player in history was Di Stefano. I refuse to classify Pel as a player. He was above that.”
Just Fontaine, French striker and leading scorer at the 1958 World Cup; “When I saw Pel play, it made me feel I should hang up my boots.” England’s 1966 FIFA World Cup-winning captain Bobby Moore commented: “Pel was the most complete player I’ve ever seen, he had everything. Two good feet. Magic in the air. Quick. Powerful. Could beat people with skill. Could outrun people. Only five feet and eight inches tall, yet he seemed a giant of an athlete on the pitch. Perfect balance and impossible vision. He was the greatest because he could do anything and everything on a football pitch. I remember Saldhana the coach being asked by a Brazilian journalist who was the best goalkeeper in his squad. He said Pel. The man could play in any position”. Former Manchester United striker and member of England’s 1966 FIFA World Cup-winning team Sir Bobby Charlton stated; “I sometimes feel as though football was invented for this magical player.” During the 1970 World Cup, a British television commentator asked; “How do you spell Pel?”, with the response; “Easy: G-O-D.”
Since retiring, Pel has continued to be lauded by players, coaches, journalists and others. Brazilian attacking midfielder Zico, who represented Brazil at the 1978, 1982 and 1986 FIFA World Cup, stated; “This debate about the player of the century is absurd. There’s only one possible answer: Pel. He’s the greatest player of all time, and by some distance I might add”. French three time Balon D’or winner Michel Platini said; “There’s Pel the man, and then Pel the player. And to play like Pel is to play like God.” Joint FIFA Player of the Century, Argentina’s 1986 FIFA World Cup-winning captain Diego Maradona stated; “It’s too bad we never got along, but he was an awesome player”. Prolific Brazilian striker Romrio, winner of the 1994 FIFA World Cup and player of the tournament; “It’s only inevitable I look up to Pel. He’s like a God to us”. Four-time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo said: “Pel is the greatest player in football history, and there will only be one Pel”, while Jos Mourinho, two-time UEFA Champions League winning manager, commented; “I think he is football. You have the real special one – Mr. Pel.” Real Madrid honorary president and former player, Alfredo Di Stfano, opined; “The best player ever? Pel. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are both great players with specific qualities, but Pel was better”.
Presenting Pel a lifetime achievement award, former South African president Nelson Mandela said; “To watch him play was to watch the delight of a child combined with the extraordinary grace of a man in full.” US politician and political scientist Henry Kissinger stated, “Performance at a high level in any sport is to exceed the ordinary human scale. But Pel’s performance transcended that of the ordinary star by as much as the star exceeds ordinary performance.” After a reporter asked if his fame compared to that of Jesus, Pel in response quipped, “There are parts of the world where Jesus Christ is not so well known.”
In 1999, the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) voted Pel the World Player of the Century. That same year, the International Olympic Committee elected him the Athlete of the Century. According to the IFFHS, Pel is the most successful league goal-scorer in the world, scoring 1281 goals in 1363 games, which included unofficial friendlies and tour games. During his playing days, Pel was for a period the highest-paid athlete in the world. Pel’s “electrifying play and penchant for spectacular goals” made him a star around the world. To take full advantage of his popularity, his team Santos toured internationally. During his career, he became known as “The Black Pearl” (A Prola Negra), “The King of Football” (O Rei do Futebol), “The King Pel” (O Rei Pel) or simply “The King” (O Rei).
On 21 February 1966, Pel married Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi. They had two daughters and one son: Kelly Cristina (born 13 January 1967), who married Dr. Arthur DeLuca, Jennifer (b. 1978), and their son Edson (“Edinho”, b. 27 August 1970). The couple divorced in 1982. In 1977, Brazilian media reported that Pel had his right kidney removed.
From 1981 to 1986, Pel was romantically linked with the TV presenter Xuxa, and was seen as influential move in launching her career. She was 17 when they started dating. In April 1994, Pel married psychologist and gospel singer Assria Lemos Seixas, who gave birth on 28 September 1996 to twins Joshua and Celeste through fertility treatments. The couple divorced in 2008.
Pel had at least two more children from former affairs. Sandra Machado, who was born from an affair Pel had in 1964 with her housemaid Anizia Machado, fought for years to be acknowledged by Pel, who refused to submit to DNA tests. Although she was recognized by courts as his biologically daughter based on DNA evidence in 1993, Pel never acknowledged his eldest daughter even after her death in 2006, nor her two children, Octavio and Gabriel. Pel also had another daughter, Flvia Kurtz, in an extramarital affair in 1968 with journalist Lenita Kurtz. Flvia was recognized by him as his daughter.
At the age of 73, Pel announced his intention to marry 41-year-old Marcia Aoki, a Japanese-Brazilian importer of medical equipment from Penpolis, So Paulo, whom he has been dating since 2010. They first met in the mid-1980s in New York, before meeting again in 2008. In 1970, Pel was investigated by the Brazilian military dictatorship for suspected leftist sympathies. Declassified documents showed Pel was investigated after being handed a manifesto calling for the release of political prisoners. Pel himself did not get further involved within political struggles in the country. He has been criticized in the public opinion for his conservative views. In June 2013, he was criticized in the public opinion for his conservative views. During the Brazilian protests. Pel asked for people to “forget the demonstrations” and support the Brazil national team. In November 2012, Pel underwent a successful hip operation. In May 2014, his son Edinho was jailed for 33 years for laundering money from drug trafficking. Pel has stated in 2013 that he is a Catholic.
In 1994, Pel was appointed a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. In 1995, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso appointed Pel to the position of Extraordinary Minister for Sport. During this time he proposed legislation to reduce corruption in Brazilian football, which became known as the “Pel law.” Pel left his position in 2001 after he was accused of involvement in a corruption scandal that stole $700,000 from UNICEF. It was claimed that money given to Pel’s company for a benefit match was not returned after it was cancelled, although nothing was proven, and it was denied by UNICEF. In 1997, he received an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II at a ceremony in Buckingham Palace. Pel also helped inaugurate the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals, alongside supermodel Claudia Schiffer.
In 1993, Pel publicly accused the Brazilian football administrator Ricardo Teixeira of corruption after Pel’s television company was rejected in a contest for the Brazilian domestic rights to the 1994 World Cup. Pel accusations led to an eight-year feud between the pair. As a consequence of the affair, the President of FIFA, Joo Havelange banned Pel from the draw for the 1994 FIFA World Cup in Las Vegas. Criticisms over the ban were perceived to have negatively affected Havelange’s chances of re-election as FIFA’s president in 1994.
Pel has published several autobiographies, starred in documentary films, and composed musical pieces, including the soundtrack for the film Pel in 1977. He appeared in the 1981 film Escape to Victory, about a World War II-era football match between Allied prisoners of war and a German team. Pel starred alongside other footballers of the 1960s and 1970s, with actors Michael Caine, and Sylvester Stallone. in 1969, Pel starred in a telenovela called Os Estranhos, about first contact with aliens. It was created to drum up interest in the Apollo missions. In 2001, had a cameo role in the satire film, Mike Bassett: England Manager.
In November 2007, Pel was in Sheffield, England to mark the 150th anniversary of the world’s oldest football club, Sheffield F.C. Pel was the guest of honour at Sheffield’s anniversary match against Inter Milan, which Inter won 5-2 at Bramall Lane. As part of his visit, Pel opened an exhibition which included the first public showing in 40 years of the original hand-written rules of football. Pel scouted for Premier League club Fulham in 2002. He made the draw for the qualification groups for the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals. On 1 August 2010, Pel was introduced as the Honorary President of a revived New York Cosmos, aiming to field a team in Major League Soccer. In August 2011, ESPN reported that Santos were considering bringing him out of retirement for a cameo role in the 2011 FIFA Club World Cup, although this later turned out to be false.
The most notable area of Pel’s life since football is his ambassadorial work. In 1992, he was appointed a UN ambassador for ecology and the environment. He was also awarded Brazil’s Gold Medal for outstanding services to the sport in 1995. In 2012, Pel was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh for “significant contribution to humanitarian and environmental causes, as well as his sporting achievements”.
On 12 August 2012, Pel was an attendee at the 2012 Olympic hunger summit hosted by UK Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street, London, part of a series of international efforts which have sought to respond to the return of hunger as a high-profile global issue. Later on the same day, Pel appeared at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, following the handover section to the next host city for the 2016 Summer Olympics, Rio de Janeiro. In March 2016, Pel filed a lawsuit against Samsung Electronics in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois seeking US$30 million in damages claiming violations under the Lanham Act for false endorsement and a state law claim for violation of his right of publicity. The suit alleged, that at one point Samsung and Pel came close to entering into a licensing agreement for Pel to appear in a Samsung advertising campaign. Samsung abruptly pulled out of the negotiations. The October 2015 Samsung ad in question, included a partial face shot of a man who allegedly “very closely resembles” Pel and also a superimposed high-definition television screen next to the image of the man featuring a “modified bicycle or scissors-kick”, perfected and famously used by Pel.
- FIFA World Cup (3): 1958, 1962, 1970
- Roca Cup (2): 1957, 1963
- Cruz Cup (3): 1958, 1962, 1968
- Bernardo O’Higgins Cup (1): 1959
- Atlantic Cup (1): 1960
- Copa Libertadores (2): 1962, 1963
- Intercontinental Cup (2): 1962, 1963
- Campeonato Brasileiro Srie A (6): 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1968
- Torneio Rio-So Paulo (4): 1959, 1963, 1964
- Campeonato Paulista (10): 1958, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1973
- North American Soccer League, Soccer Bowl (1): 1977
- North American Soccer League, Atlantic Conference Championship (1): 1977
- FIFA Ballon d’Or Prix d’Honneur: 2013.
- Ballon d’Or: 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1963, 1964, 1970 – Le nouveau palmars (the new winners)
- FIFA Player of the Century: 2000
- FIFA Order of Merit: 1984
- BBC Sports Personality of the Year Overseas Personality: 1970
- Athlete of the Century, by Reuters News Agency: 1999
- Athlete of the Century, elected by International Olympic Committee: 1999
- South American Footballer of the Year (1): 1973
- Football Player of the Century, elected by France Football‘s Ballon d’Or Winners: 1999
- Inducted into the American National Soccer Hall of Fame: 1992
- World Team of the 20th Century: 1998
- TIME: One of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th century: 1999
- Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire: 1997
In December 2000, Pel and Maradona shared the prize of FIFA Player of the Century by FIFA. The award was originally intended to be based upon votes in a web poll, but after it became apparent that it favoured Diego Maradona, many observers complained that the Internet nature of the poll would have meant a skewed demographic of younger fans who would have seen Maradona play, but not Pel. FIFA then appointed a “Family of Football” committee of FIFA members to decide the winner of the award together with the votes of the readers of the FIFA Magazine. The committee chose Pel. Since Maradona was winning the Internet poll, however, it was decided he and Pel should share the award.
- Brazil national football team All-Time Leading Scorer, 77 goals (95 goals including unofficial friendlies).
- Intercontinental Cup: All-Time Leading Scorer: 7 goals
- World record number of hat-trick: 92
- Guinness World Records: Most career goals (football): 1283 goals in 1363 games
- Guinness World Records: Most FIFA World Cup Winners’ Medals
- Youngest scorer in the FIFA World Cup: 17 years and 239 days (Brazil v Wales 1958)
- Youngest hat-trick in the FIFA World Cup: 17 years and 244 days (Brazil v France 1958)
- Youngest player to play in a FIFA World Cup final match: 17 years and 249 days (Brazil v Sweden 1958)
- Youngest scorer in the FIFA World Cup final match: 17 years and 249 days (Brazil v Sweden 1958)
- Youngest winner of a FIFA World Cup: 17 years in 1958 FIFA World Cup
Pel’s goalscoring record is often reported by FIFA as being 1281 goals in 1363 games. This figure includes goals scored by Pel in friendly club matches, like international tours Pel completed with Santos and the New York Cosmos, and a few games Pel played in for the Brazilian armed forces teams during his national service in Brazil. He was listed in the Guinness World Records for most career goals scored in football his goalscoring record.
The tables below record every goal Pel scored in major club competitions for Santos and the New York Cosmos.
|Club||Season||Campeonato Paulista||Rio-So Paulo||Campeonato Brasileiro Srie A||Domestic competitions
|Copa Libertadores||Intercontinental Cup|
Pel is the top scorer of the Brazil national football team with 77 goals in 92 official appearances. In addition, he scored 18 times in 22 unofficial games. This makes an unofficial total of 114 games and 95 goals. He also scored 12 goals and is credited with 10 assists in 14 World Cup appearances, including 4 goals and 7 assists in 1970. Pel shares with Uwe Seeler and Miroslav Klose the achievement of being the only three footballers to have scored in four separate World Cup tournaments.
|2.||10 July 1957||So Paulo||Brazil||2-0||Argentina||Roca Cup||1||2|
|3.||4 May 1958||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||5-1||Paraguay||Oswaldo Cruz Cup||1||3|
|4.||14 May 1958||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||4-0||Bulgaria||Friendly||0||3|
|5.||18 May 1958||So Paulo||Brazil||3-1||Bulgaria||Friendly||2||5|
|6.||15 June 1958||Gothenburg||Brazil||2-0||Soviet Union||World Cup||0||5|
|7.||19 June 1958||Gothenburg||Brazil||1-0||Wales||World Cup||1||6|
|8.||24 June 1958||Stockholm||Brazil||5-2||France||World Cup||3||9|
|9.||29 June 1958||Stockholm||Brazil||5-2||Sweden||World Cup||2||11|
|10.||10 March 1959||Buenos Aires||Brazil||2-2||Peru||Copa Amrica||1||12|
|11.||15 March 1959||Buenos Aires||Brazil||3-0||Chile||Copa Amrica||2||14|
|12.||21 March 1959||Buenos Aires||Brazil||4-2||Bolivia||Copa Amrica||1||15|
|13.||26 March 1959||Buenos Aires||Brazil||3-1||Uruguay||Copa Amrica||0||15|
|14.||29 March 1959||Buenos Aires||Brazil||4-1||Paraguay||Copa Amrica||3||18|
|15.||4 April 1959||Buenos Aires||Argentina||1-1||Brazil||Copa Amrica||1||19|
|16.||13 May 1959||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||2-0||England||Friendly||0||19|
|17.||17 September 1959||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||7-0||Chile||O’Higgins Cup||3||22|
|18.||20 September 1959||So Paulo||Brazil||1-0||Chile||O’Higgins Cup||0||22|
|19.||29 April 1960||Cairo||United Arab Republic||0-5||Brazil||Friendly||0||22|
|20.||1 May 1960||Alexandria||United Arab Republic||1-3||Brazil||Friendly||3||25|
|21.||6 May 1960||Cairo||United Arab Republic||0-3||Brazil||Friendly||0||25|
|22.||10 May 1960||Copenhagen||Denmark||3-4||Brazil||Friendly||0||25|
|23.||9 July 1960||Montevideo||Uruguay||0-1||Brazil||Atlantic Cup||0||25|
|24.||12 July 1960||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||5-1||Argentina||Atlantic Cup||1||26|
|25.||21 April 1962||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||6-0||Paraguay||Oswaldo Cruz Cup||1||27|
|26.||24 April 1962||So Paulo||Brazil||4-0||Paraguay||Oswaldo Cruz Cup||2||29|
|27.||6 May 1962||So Paulo||Brazil||2-1||Portugal||Friendly||0||29|
|28.||9 May 1962||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||1-0||Portugal||Friendly||1||30|
|29.||12 May 1962||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||3-1||Wales||Friendly||1||31|
|30.||16 May 1962||So Paulo||Brazil||3-1||Wales||Friendly||2||33|
|31.||30 May 1962||Via del Mar||Brazil||2-0||Mexico||World Cup||1||34|
|32.||2 June 1962||Via del Mar||Brazil||0-0||Czechoslovakia||World Cup||0||34|
|33.||13 April 1963||So Paulo||Brazil||2-3||Argentina||Roca Cup||0||34|
|34.||16 April 1963||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||5-2||Argentina||Roca Cup||3||37|
|35.||21 April 1963||Lisbon||Portugal||1-0||Brazil||Friendly||0||37|
|36.||28 April 1963||Paris||France||2-3||Brazil||Friendly||3||40|
|37.||2 May 1963||Amsterdam||Netherlands||1-0||Brazil||Friendly||0||40|
|38.||5 May 1963||Hamburg||West Germany||1-2||Brazil||Friendly||1||41|
|39.||12 May 1963||Milan||Italy||3-0||Brazil||Friendly||0||41|
|40.||30 May 1964||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||5-1||England||Taa das Naes||1||42|
|41.||3 June 1964||So Paulo||Brazil||0-3||Argentina||Taa das Naes||0||42|
|42.||7 June 1964||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||4-1||Portugal||Taa das Naes||1||43|
|43.||2 June 1965||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||5-0||Belgium||Friendly||3||46|
|44.||6 June 1965||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||2-0||West Germany||Friendly||1||47|
|45.||9 June 1965||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||0-0||Argentina||Friendly||0||47|
|46.||17 June 1965||Orano||Algeria||0-3||Brazil||Friendly||1||48|
|47.||24 June 1965||Porto||Portugal||0-0||Brazil||Friendly||0||48|
|48.||30 June 1965||Stockholm||Sweden||1-2||Brazil||Friendly||1||49|
|49.||4 July 1965||Moscow||Soviet Union||0-3||Brazil||Friendly||2||51|
|50.||21 November 1965||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||2-2||Soviet Union||Friendly||1||52|
|51.||19 May 1966||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||1-0||Chile||Friendly||0||52|
|52.||4 June 1966||So Paulo||Brazil||4-0||Peru||Friendly||1||53|
|53.||8 June 1966||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||2-1||Poland||Friendly||0||53|
|54.||12 June 1966||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||2-1||Czechoslovakia||Friendly||2||55|
|55.||15 June 1966||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||2-2||Czechoslovakia||Friendly||1||56|
|56.||25 June 1966||Glasgow||Scotland||1-1||Brazil||Friendly||0||56|
|57.||30 June 1966||Gteborg||Sweden||2-3||Brazil||Friendly||0||56|
|58.||12 July 1966||Liverpool||Brazil||2-0||Bulgaria||World Cup||1||57|
|59.||19 July 1966||Liverpool||Portugal||3-1||Brazil||World Cup||0||57|
|60.||25 July 1968||Asuncin||Paraguay||0-4||Brazil||Oswaldo Cruz Cup||2||59|
|61.||28 July 1968||Asuncin||Paraguay||1-0||Brazil||Oswaldo Cruz Cup||0||59|
|62.||31 October 1968||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||1-2||Mexico||Friendly||0||59|
|63.||3 November 1968||Belo Horizonte||Brazil||2-1||Mexico||Friendly||1||60|
|64.||6 November 1968||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||2-1||FIFA XI||Friendly||0||60|
|65.||14 December 1968||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||2-2||West Germany||Friendly||0||60|
|66.||17 December 1968||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||3-3||Yugoslavia||Friendly||1||61|
|67.||7 April 1969||Porto Alegre||Brazil||2-1||Peru||Friendly||0||61|
|68.||9 April 1969||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||3-2||Peru||Friendly||1||62|
|69.||12 June 1969||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||2-1||England||Friendly||0||62|
|70.||6 August 1969||Bogot||Colombia||0-2||Brazil||World Cup Qualifiers||0||62|
|71.||10 August 1969||Caracas||Venezuela||0-5||Brazil||World Cup Qualifiers||2||64|
|72.||17 August 1969||Asuncin||Paraguay||0-3||Brazil||World Cup Qualifiers||0||64|
|73.||21 August 1969||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||6-2||Colombia||World Cup Qualifiers||1||65|
|74.||24 August 1969||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||6-0||Venezuela||World Cup Qualifiers||2||67|
|75.||31 August 1969||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||1-0||Paraguay||World Cup Qualifiers||1||68|
|76.||4 March 1970||Porto Alegre||Brazil||0-2||Argentina||Friendly||0||68|
|77.||8 March 1970||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||2-1||Argentina||Friendly||1||69|
|78.||22 March 1970||So Paulo||Brazil||5-0||Chile||Friendly||2||71|
|79.||26 March 1970||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||2-1||Chile||Friendly||0||71|
|80.||12 April 1970||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||0-0||Paraguay||Friendly||0||71|
|81.||26 April 1970||So Paulo||Brazil||0-0||Bulgaria||Friendly||0||71|
|82.||29 April 1970||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||1-0||Austria||Friendly||0||71|
|83.||3 June 1970||Guadalajara||Brazil||4-1||Czechoslovakia||World Cup||1||72|
|84.||7 June 1970||Guadalajara||Brazil||1-0||England||World Cup||0||72|
|85.||10 June 1970||Guadalajara||Brazil||3-2||Romania||World Cup||2||74|
|86.||14 June 1970||Guadalajara||Brazil||4-2||Peru||World Cup||0||74|
|87.||17 June 1970||Guadalajara||Brazil||3-1||Uruguay||World Cup||0||74|
|88.||21 June 1970||Mexico City||Brazil||4-1||Italy||World Cup||1||75|
|89.||30 September 1970||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||2-1||Mexico||Friendly||0||75|
|90.||4 October 1970||Santiago de Chile||Chile||1-5||Brazil||Friendly||1||76|
|91.||11 July 1971||So Paulo||Brazil||1-1||Austria||Friendly||1||77|
|92.||18 July 1971||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||2-2||Yugoslavia||Friendly||0||77|
|Unofficial international appearances (22) and goals (18)|
|1966-05-01||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||2-0||Rio Grande do Sul|
|1968-11-06||Rio de Janeiro||FIFA XI (Friendly match)||2-1||Brazil|
|1969-07-09||Aracaju||Rio Grande do Sul||2-8||Brazil|
|1969-09-03||Belo Horizonte||Atltico Mineiro||2-1||Brazil||1|
|1970-03-14||Rio de Janeiro||Bangu||1-1||Brazil|
|1970-04-19||Belo Horizonte||Minas Gerais||1-3||Brazil|
|FIFA World Cup goals|
|1958-06-19||Ullevi, Gothenburg, Sweden||Wales||1-0||1-0||1958||Quarterfinal|
|1958-06-24||Rsunda Stadium, Solna, Sweden||France||1-3||2-5||1958||Semifinal|
|1958-06-24||Rsunda Stadium, Solna, Sweden||France||1-4||2-5||1958||Semifinal|
|1958-06-24||Rsunda Stadium, Solna, Sweden||France||1-5||2-5||1958||Semifinal|
|1958-06-29||Rsunda Stadium, Solna, Sweden||Sweden||1-3||2-5||1958||Final|
|1958-06-29||Rsunda Stadium, Solna, Sweden||Sweden||2-5||2-5||1958||Final|
|1962-05-30||Estadio Sausalito, Via del Mar, Chile||Mexico||2– 0||2-0||1962||Group stage|
|1966-07-12||Goodison Park, Liverpool, England||Bulgaria||1-0||2-0||1966||Group stage|
|1970-06-03||Estadio Jalisco, Guadalajara, Mexico||Czechoslovakia||2-1||4-1||1970||Group stage|
|1970-06-10||Estadio Jalisco, Guadalajara, Mexico||Romania||1-0||3-2||1970||Group stage|
|1970-06-10||Estadio Jalisco, Guadalajara, Mexico||Romania||3-1||3-2||1970||Group stage|
|1970-06-21||Estadio Azteca, Mexico City, Mexico||Italy||1-0||4-1||1970||Final|
|Career total (incl. unofficial matches)||41||43||69||56||114||95||0.83|
Pel numbers differ between sources mostly due to friendly games. The RSSSF states that Pel scored 767 goals in 831 official games, 1281 goals in 1365 overall while he was active, and 1284 in 1375 taking into account benefit games after retirement. The following table is a compendium of sources that include data from Santos and FIFA official websites among others.
|Brazil national football team||92||77||0.84|
|Friendly matches and defunct Tournaments||554||526||0.95|
|International matches (Official and Friendlies)||503||479||0.95|
|Domestic matches (Official and Friendlies)||863||804||0.93|
|New York Cosmos||111||65||0.59|