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The King of Kings
Pele: The Greatest Player To Ever Play
Posted Aug 19, 2010 by Shaun Edwards
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‘I told myself before the game that he’s made of skin and bones just like everyone else – I was wrong.’ This statement by the Italian defender Tarcisio Burgnich, the Italian defender unfortunately charged with marking Pele during the 1970 World Cup Final, sums up the legend of the Brazilian just as well as anything. Pele was simply a class above – at the time, watching him play was unlike anything anyone had ever seen. Having been brought to Santos in 1956 at the age of 16, Pele immediately claimed his place in the side, and two years later he scored an extra-ordinary 58 goals in a season: and still a teenager. In analysing other legends, it is common enough to mention their power and strength (Maradona) or their sheer mental ability to read the game (Moore). Pele, though, had everything. He could shrug off defenders easily, pick out team-mates seemingly out of nowhere, and send defenders completely the wrong way with his remarkable dribbling abilities. This was all in addition to his remarkable ability to just score. Time and time and time and time again, Pele would put the ball in the back of the net, scoring an extra ordinary 1281 goals in 1363 games. In these days of a striker scoring in three of four games being considered lethal, Pele’s record becomes even more remarkable. It’s hard to comprehend, but if Pele DIDN’T score in a match, it was considered at the very least a surprise. Whilst his club record is tremendous, it was obviously on the international scene that Pele’s reputation was established: he frequently made the world’s best defenders look foolish, winning his first World Cup at the age of seventeen by utterly routing the Swedish defence in the final, scoring twice in Brazils’s 5-2 win. With the combined brilliance of Pele and Garrincha, Brazil went on to win further World Cups in both 1962 and 1970 – although Pele was sent home in 1962 as a result of an injury, FIFA decided to posthumously award him with his medal: he is consequently the only man to have ever claimed three world cup winner’s medals. As well as his outstanding work on the football field, he also very well known for his post-career ambassadorial work: as well being appointed a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Pele was also involved with the United Nations as an ambassador for Ecology and the environment. Pele simply overshadows the world of soccer like a colossus – World Cup Winner, World Cup silver & golden boot winner, Athlete of the Century, CBE, UNICEF Footballer of the Century, Time Magazine’s ‘One of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century’, FIFA Player of the Century – the list of awards goes on and on and on. One thing is for certain – that Pele was truly a one-off, and anyone lucky enough to have seen the man play will consider themselves lucky. Unless they were defending against him, of course.