Brazilian legend Pele is seen as possibly the greatest player ever to grace the footballing world. His quick pace, jaw-dropping skills and passion for the game make him influential in the way many of the world’s greatest players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi play today.
Pele was a unique player in the sense that the highlights of his career came during his time in the Brazilian national team rather than during his club career. It was during international competitions such as the World Cup that football fans across the world stood up and took notice of the Brazilian magician.
But Pele’s relationship with the World Cup started long before his football career took off. He once stated in an interview that as a young boy he witnessed his father cry after Brazil lost the 1950 World Cup final to Uruguay and following that day he promised himself that he would bring the World Cup title back to his home country. A young Pele did not wait around as he made his debut for Brazil at the tender age of 16, and even scored in a 2-1 loss to Argentina on his debut. In 1958, Pele was picked for the Brazilian World Cup squad which made him the youngest ever player at the time to play in the World Cup finals. The World Cup final of 1958 is regarded as one of Pele’s finest moments as he took the limelight by not only being the youngest ever player to play in a World Cup final but he also scored two outstanding goals to guide his country to glory in a 5-2 win against Sweden. Pele’s second goal against Sweden is seen as one of the best goals of all time, and probably the best ever scored in a World Cup final, as he managed to lob a defender and then volley the ball into the back of the net. It was moments such as this that made Pele a deserved winner of the Young Player of the Tournament award in the 1958 World Cup.
Pele was again picked for the Brazil squad in 1962 and he seemed to take off where he left off by assisting and scoring against Mexico in the first round. Unfortunately, Pele picked up a serious injury against Czechoslovakia and it kept him out for the rest of the tournament. Brazil went on to win the competition again in 1962 even without Pele, but it was not the last that the World Cup had seen of the great man.
Pele’s last World Cup appearance came in the 1970 competition where the Brazilian national side took the world by storm yet again. The 1970 Brazilian World Cup squad is still considered as one of the greatest sides in football history. With players like Rivelino, Carlos Alberto and Pele himself there was always only going to be one winner and they did just that by beating Italy 4-1 in the final.
There is no doubt that Pele is a World Cup legend and one of the greatest (if not the greatest) footballers of all time. This has been recognised in modern football by Pele being awarded the Ballon D’or Footballer of the Century award in 1999. He also received the FIFA Ballon D’or Prix D’honneur in 2013 in recognition of his achievements throughout his footballing career. Although these are outstanding achievements it is probably fair to say that the biggest achievement for Brazil’s all-time leading goal scorer is keeping the promise he made to his dad to make sure the World Cup trophy returned to Brazil as he did this not once, not twice, but three times.
Sarah Fitzpatrick, Pundit Arena.