Long before the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, there was Pelé. And though he retired as far back as 1977, his name is known all over the world. Even those born after he reigned supreme acknowledge him as one of the greatest footballers of all time.
As Pelé turns 77 years old today, here are 7 things you probably didn’t know about the Brazilian legend.
- He was named after the inventor of the light bulb.
Pelé’s real name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento, named after Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb. He was teased by a classmate after his mispronunciation of the name of the Brazilian goalkeeper, Bilé, as Pelé. He hated the name so much that he punched the classmate in the face, but the name stuck.
- He is an official National treasure.
In 1961, the Brazilian government has declared Pelé as an official national treasure to prevent foreign clubs from snapping him up. He signed for Santos FC when he was 15 years old and spent 19 seasons playing for the club before spending the last two years of his career at the New York Cosmos.
- His presence caused a 48-hour ceasefire during the Nigerian civil war.
On an African tour with Santos in 1967, the two factions involved in the Nigerian Civil War agreed to a 48-hour ceasefire so they could watch Pelé play an exhibition game in Lagos.
- Opponents got his shirt after each match.
When Pele played for the New York Cosmos, so many of his opponents were desperate to swap shirts with him that the club had to give each of their opponents a shirt after every match.
- He is the only player to win three World Cups.
Pele is the only player to have won three World Cup winners’ medals. He became the youngest ever winner of a World Cup at 17 in 1958, scoring twice in the final against home side Sweden. He won again in 1962 and 1970.
- He wasn’t a fan of diving and penalties.
Pele was did not like diving. He once said: “A penalty is a cowardly way to score.”
- He has seven children from four different women.
Pele fathered two daughters and a son with his first wife, Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi who he married in 1966. He also had another daughter in an extramarital affair in 1968 with journalist Lenita Kurtz. It was discovered that he had fathered a daughter from an affair with housemaid Anizia Machado in 1964 but never acknowledged the child. He divorced his first wife in 1982 and married psychologist and gospel singer, Assíria Lemos Seixas in 1994. They had twins together before getting divorced in 2008. He got married for a third time in 2016 to Marcia Cibele Aoki.
Happy 77th birthday, Pelé! Absolute legend!