Cologne – What is left to a jubilee in Corona times? Home office. In the case of Pele, this has meant for days: unpacking incoming gifts, answering congratulations by constantly ringing WhatsApp, but above all recording video messages in chord.
Instead of a big party, “o Rei”, Brazil’s “football king”, will celebrate his 80th birthday virtually on Friday – and in good health.
“Temporarily closed due to inventory”
“I thank God for your health, having made it this far, with a clear mind, not very intelligent, but clear in the head,” said the probably greatest footballer in history in one of the home videos filmed in during the week his beach villa in Guaruja near Santos.
“Temporarily closed due to inventory”, can be heard from his staff behind closed doors when interview requests have been received from all over the world since the outbreak of the pandemic, over 200 on his special day alone.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento, who was born in a small village called Tres Coracoes (three hearts), made sure that there was enough to count in the inventory.
Pele makes the 10 world famous
Youngest scorer in a World Cup final when he scored twice against the hosts in Sweden in 1958 at the age of 17 years and 249 days. 1,281 hits recorded in 1,363 games. Countless titles all over the world with FC Santos, with Cosmos New York and above all the World Cup triumphs in 1958, 1962 and 1970 with the Selecao.
For more than 21 years he tied his football boots up until he left on October 1, 1977, and made the number 10 world famous – not as a classic playmaker, but rather as a hanging tip according to today’s understanding of the game.
In love with dribbling, aiming for goals, shooting with right or left, with force or finesse, with your head or overhead kicks literally floating in the air. “The difficult thing is not to score a thousand goals like Pele, but a single one like Pele,” wrote Brazil’s poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade in an ode to the model athlete.
“Every child knows who you are”
In his second life, the Afro-Brazilian, who came from a humble background – sometimes embarrassing, mostly mediocre – tried himself as a singer, actor, sports minister or entrepreneur, silvered his reputation in advertising campaigns and used his fame as a football ambassador.
“Nice, I’m Ronald Reagan, but you don’t need to introduce yourself. Every child knows who you are,” he was greeted by the then US President in the White House. One of the many anecdotes that surround the myth.
He is said to have stopped a war somewhere in Africa in early 1969 – some speak of the Congo, others of Nigeria – because the warring camps wanted to see “Rei” and his Santos followers play.
True legends, legendary truths.
Pele inherited the talent from father Dondinho, but he passed it on to a fair degree. Of his seven children, only two sons, Edinho (professional career as goalkeeper and coach), who was serving prison sentences for money laundering and involvement in drug deals, and Joshua (college soccer in the USA) tried to play with little success.
Pele with “good and bad days”
Edinho was in the end something like his father’s mouthpiece. In February he spread rumors about depression, Pele replied, “I have my good days as well as my bad. It’s normal for people my age.”
But operations on the kidney (November 2014), prostate (May 2015), spine (July 2015) or hip (December 2015) and the death of brother Zoca (77) in March have left their mark.
Even before the isolation, Pele’s walking aid was a constant companion. Manager Joe Fraga nevertheless promised: “After the birthday we will do a lot of actions for his foundation.” For the time being, only on social networks.
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