WORLD CUP : Legend

Pele (Brazil)

Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento in October 1940, Pele went on to become the best-loved footballer of his or any other generation. A veteran of four World Cups, Pele was a member of winning squads in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

After playing his first game for Santos as a 15-year-old in 1956, Pele earned a call up to the national team a year later, scoring on his debut against Argentina. In 1958 he was picked for the World Cup in Sweden. Working in tandem with Garrincha, Pele gave a virtuoso display as the Soviet Union were vanquished 2-0. A winning goal in the quarter-final against Wales and a hat-trick in the 5-2 semi-final win over France were followed by two more in the final over Sweden.

Still only 17, Pele had become the youngest World Cup winner in history. He returned in 1970 in Mexico to spearhead what is regarded to be the greatest team of all time. Where 1966 had been viewed as a victory for cynicism, the 1970 tournament, and Pele and Brazil’s winning contribution to it, have become synonymous with the game. It is a testament to the quality of Pele’s play in Mexico that he is remembered for the goals he didn’t score as much as for the ones he did. Though he was to continue playing club football, he retired from international duty in 1971.