The eternal legacy of Pelé


Courtesy of Ameya Menon

Brazilian soccer star Pelé’s lifelong impact can be seen all around the world, with his death affecting many soccer players and fans.

Sarah Chen, copy editor

An inspiration and legend worldwide, Brazilian soccer superstar Pelé not only popularized the sport of football but also altered the way it was played and viewed. With a career spanning over two decades, Pelé won numerous awards and accolades. His skill and success on the field, combined with his charming personality and philanthropic endeavors, have solidified his place as a true icon in the world of soccer. Pelé’s influence extends far beyond the pitch, and he continues to inspire players and fans around the globe.

Born in Brazil in 1940 as Edson Arantes do Nascimento, he grew up in poverty and worked a multitude of jobs to help support his family. He played for local league teams on the side, practicing whenever he could and earning the nickname ‘Pelé’. At 15, Pelé was scouted and signed with Santos FC, a national team, and earned the title of Brazil’s top football scorer only a year later.

At 18, Pelé made his international debut at the 1958 World Cup, leading the Brazilian team to their first-ever victory. Brazil repeated as World Cup champions in 1962 and 1970, the latter of which is widely regarded as one of the most memorable Cups of all time. 

Pelé quickly became known as the greatest football player of the 20th century, capturing ten league titles with his national team. The passion and talent for football he held brought people from all over the world to the sport. 

Throughout his career, Pelé took part in innumerable legendary goals and games, but it was his playing style and attitude that have given him the reputation as one of the greatest soccer players of all time. Not only did he have the speed and agility required for the game, Pelé possessed unrivaled control of the ball, timing, and perception of the players around him. 

A long-time soccer fan, Senior Alex Banerjee, Pelé recognized the insurmountable talent he held. “Pelé was a genius when it came to using his feet, and he revolutionized football, especially Brazilian football. He was amazing at having the vision to set up plays and set the bar for young footballers,” he expressed. Pelé was also regarded as a very humble player, maintaining great sportsmanship even after defeating tough opponents. 

However, Pelé contributed to the world off the field, too. He was very vocal about the issues facing his home country of Brazil, specifically surrounding childhood education. In interviews, he often took the time to bring awareness to the educational disparities in Brazil due to government corruption. He also worked with other countries like England during the 2012 Olympics to work towards reducing food insecurity affecting children in Rio. 

Banerjee explained the long term impact of Pelé’s community work. “He used the recognition he got from being a soccer star to bring recognition to those being oppressed or in unfortunate circumstances. Pelé’s efforts in charity to help empower people and especially children in need, made people definitely look up to him,” he voiced. 

Pelé was much more than a star football player. His dedication toward humanitarian work made significant contributions to his home country and the world. 

He stood as a symbol as he represented overcoming the hardships of being black, especially in Brazil. The social hierarchy suppresses black people, making it extremely hard to get out of poverty, and Pelé’s ascent among Brazil’s social pyramid, seemingly doing the impossible, gave people hope. For players and people of all ages worldwide, Pelé became a hero and an inspiration to work towards your dreams.

Facing constant racist remarks and chants on the field, Pelé faced the struggles of being a black athlete in Brazil and in general. When addressing the injustices he faced, Pelé took a less bold approach compared to other black athletes and activists.

His success while playing for the US league team New York Cosmo inspired the black youth of America, specifically aspiring soccer players. Senior soccer player Libby Kamp acknowledged Pelé’s contributions in the US. “I think he definitely had an impact on diversity regarding soccer. Having a black soccer player, especially one that didn’t come from the US or UK during that time, changed and immensely helped diversify the sport,” she voiced.

As seen through his time playing all over the world, Pelé’s influence spanned out of Brazil. The struggles he faced represented stories from all different backgrounds, which is why so many people connected with his experiences. 

The effect of Pelé has spanned many generations and continues to inspire and influence players and fans worldwide. Pelé’s skill, sportsmanship, and charisma on the field made him a global icon, and he remains a symbol of excellence and excellence in soccer.