Pele at 80: The Brazilian’s life and career in pictures

Football great Pele celebrates his 80th birthday on October 23.

As Brazil’s all-time leading goalscorer, the former striker is one of sport’s most revered figures.

Here, the PA news agency looks at his remarkable career in pictures.

Pele on his arrival at London Airport from West Germany. He travelled with the Brazilian team for a friendly match against England at Wembley Stadium
Pele on his arrival at London Airport from West Germany. He travelled with the Brazilian team for a friendly match against England at Wembley Stadium (PA)

Pictured here in 1963, Pele began his professional career with Santos before making his debut for the national team aged just 16.

Pele (centre) during a club friendly game in which Brazilian club Santos beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 at Hillsborough
Pele (centre) during a club friendly game in which Brazilian club Santos beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 at Hillsborough (PA)

Pele’s Santos debut came shortly after he joined the club, when he was 15, and he duly scored in his first match as they beat Corinthians Santo Andre 7-1.

The Brazil team that faced Scotland at Hampden Park in Glasgow, pictured at Troon where they trained at the Troon Juniors ground
The Brazil team that faced Scotland at Hampden Park in Glasgow, pictured at Troon where they trained at the Troon Juniors ground (PA)

Aged 16 years and nine months when he notched his first goal for his country, Pele remains Brazil’s youngest ever goalscorer.

Pele, whose real name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento
Pele, whose real name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento (PA)

In his second season with Santos, Pele promptly became the league’s top scorer and attracted attention from top European sides such as Real Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan and Manchester United. In a time of political instability, president Janio Quadros prevented unrest by passing a law that deemed Pele a ‘national treasure’ and blocked him from playing outside of his native Brazil.

A line up of the 1970 Brazil team: Standing left to right: Carlos, Alberto, Leao, Brito, Fontana, Piazza, Marcos and Antonio. Below : Jairzinho, Direfu, Lopez, Pele, Gerson and Edu
A line up of the 1970 Brazil team: Standing left to right: Carlos, Alberto, Leao, Brito, Fontana, Piazza, Marcos and Antonio. Below : Jairzinho, Direfu, Lopez, Pele, Gerson and Edu (PA)

Selected for the Brazil team that flew to the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, Pele became the youngest ever player to contest a World Cup final as his team faced the host nation in Stockholm. Pele scored twice to lead his country to a 5-2 victory, thus making him both the youngest ever World Cup final goalscorer and World Cup winner.

Pele (on floor) receives treatment from trainer Americo (kneeling) as referee Kurt Tschenscher (second left) warns Bulgaria’s Dimitar Yakimov (13) and Dobromir Jetchev (6) (PA)
Pele (on floor) receives treatment from trainer Americo (kneeling) as referee Kurt Tschenscher (second left) warns Bulgaria’s Dimitar Yakimov (13) and Dobromir Jetchev (6) (PA)

A part of the Brazil squad that travelled to the World Cup in Chile, 1962, Pele provided an assist and a goal in the first game of the tournament against Mexico. He sustained an injury in the next fixture against Czechoslovakia and was forced to miss the remainder of the tournament, with Brazil eventually lifting another title without him.

Pele during the 1966 World Cup in England
Pele during the 1966 World Cup in England (PA)

Travelling to England for the 1966 World Cup, Pele found himself repeatedly the target of foul play. Brazil failed to progress from the first round of games after the striker was forced to limp off the pitch against Portugal at a time where substitutes had not yet been introduced. Disappointed in the standard of refereeing, Pele vowed never to play in a World Cup again.

Fulham goalkeeper Peter Mellor dives at the feet  of Pele to smother the ball
Fulham goalkeeper Peter Mellor dives at the feet of Pele to smother the ball (PA)

Meanwhile at Santos, Pele had won his first major title in 1958 when the club triumphed in the Campeonato Paulista. Pele was the tournament’s leading goalscorer with 58 goals, a record that still stands.

Pele representing Santos
Pele representing Santos (PA)

During 1960, Pele scored 47 goals to help his team regain the Campeonato Paulista trophy after losing it the previous year. The club went on to win the Taca Brasil that same year, beating Bahia in the finals. Pele ended the tournament as top goalscorer with nine goals, and the victory saw Santos qualify for the Copa Libertadores tournament.

Brazil team group: (back row, l-r) Orlando, Manga, Brito, Denilson, Rildo, Fidelis; (front row, l-r) trainer Americo, Jairzinho, Lima, Silva, Pele, Parana
Brazil team group: (back row, l-r) Orlando, Manga, Brito, Denilson, Rildo, Fidelis; (front row, l-r) trainer Americo, Jairzinho, Lima, Silva, Pele, Parana (PA)

Pele initially refused a call-up to the Brazil team for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, but eventually agreed to play after scoring six goals in the qualifying stages. Responsible for 53 per cent of Brazil’s goals through assists and his own scoring, Pele led the team to victory and received the Golden Boot for his efforts.

Pele retired from international football in 1971
Pele retired from international football in 1971 (PA)

Pele’s last international match was on July 18, 1971 against Yugoslavia in Rio de Janeiro. Throughout his international career, Brazil won 76 games, drew 14 and lost 11 whilst Pele was on the pitch.

Pele stopped playing for Santos in 1974
Pele stopped playing for Santos in 1974 (PA)

Pele played his last league match for Santos in 1974 and was thought to have gone into semi-retirement until he signed for New York Cosmos in 1975. The striker made 64 appearances for the American side, scoring 37 times before fully retiring after a Santos versus Cosmos exhibition match in 1977 where he played a half for each side.

England goalkeeper Gordon Banks (left), Brazil’s Pele (centre) and France and Arsenal striker Thierry Henry
England goalkeeper Gordon Banks (left), Brazil’s Pele (centre) and France and Arsenal striker Thierry Henry (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Since retirement Pele has become a player mentioned in most discussions about the greatest sportspeople of all time. Presenting him with the Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award, former South African president Nelson Mandela said of the striker: “To watch him play was to watch the delight of a child combined with the extraordinary grace of a man in full.”

Olympic Gold medal rower Katherine Grainger, a graduate of Edinburgh University, stands with former footballer Pele, who was presented with an honorary degree by the university
Olympic Gold medal rower Katherine Grainger, a graduate of Edinburgh University, stands with former footballer Pele, who was presented with an honorary degree by the university (Sean Dempsey/PA)

In January 2014, Pele was the recipient of the first ever FIFA Ballon d’Or Prix d’Honneur as an acknowledgement from the governing body for his contribution to world football.

Pele with his Inspiration award during the GQ Men of the Year Awards 2017
Pele with his Inspiration award during the GQ Men of the Year Awards 2017 (Ian West/PA)

In a career spanning 21 years, Pele tallied 541 league goals in 560 games, a total of 767 in 831 games across all competitions and a grand total of 1281 goals in 1367 appearances during his professional senior career.

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