Soccer Legend Pelé Dies: 5 Things You Might Not Know About One Of The Sport's Greats

Zinger Key Points
  • Pelé is considered by many to be the greatest soccer player of all time.
  • Before Major League Soccer, there was the North American Soccer League, which saw success with Pelé.

Given the nickname O Rei (The King) at an early age, soccer star Pelé is considered one of the greatest to ever play the sport.

Recognized as a leader for soccer in Brazil, the United States and at several World Cup tournaments, Pelé remains one of the few who can be considered the greatest of all time in the sport of soccer.

Pelé died at 82 on Thursday, Dec. 29. The soccer start had received treatment for colon cancer since 2021 and was hospitalized in December 2022 for multiple ailments.

Here is a look back at the legacy of Pelé with five things you might not know about the greatest of all time’s life.

Pelé​​​​​​​'s 3 World Cup Wins: One of the biggest arguments for Pelé being the greatest soccer player of all time comes from a feat he accomplished that no other soccer player has. Pelé is the only soccer player to win three World Cups, helping Brazil take top honors in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

Over 450 players have won a World Cup, with 20 players winning two trophies. Only Pelé can lay claim to winning three World Cups in their lifetime. Pelé also competed in the 1966 World Cup, giving him four World Cup tournament appearances, tied for the second-most all time.

Pelé​​​​​​​'s Success At Early Age: Pelé was a successful soccer player at an early age and played in his first World Cup at the age of 17, the youngest player in the 1958 World Cup.

Prior to the World Cup, Pelé became interested in soccer and practiced by kicking a sock stuffed with newspapers or rags around the streets of his country. At the age of 11, Pelé was signed to Santos’ youth squad. Shortly after, Pelé found himself playing for the senior squad for Santos, playing for the Brazilian club at the age of 16 and quickly becoming a star.

Hollywood Actor: Pelé is listed with several acting credits, including playing himself in several movies and television specials. One acting credit is Pelé playing the character Corporal Luis Fernandez in the 1981 movie “Escape to Victory.” The movie from Paramount Global PARA PARAA grossed $27.5 million at the box office. The movie, which also starred Sylvester Stallone and Michael Caine, saw allied prisoners of war during World War II take part in a soccer match against the German National Team while also planning their escape.

Pelé​​​​​​​ Once Broke Up A Civil War (Temporarily): In 1967, a civil war broke out in Nigeria with people of the southeastern portion of the country rallying against the government with plans to secede from the country. Pelé's club team Santos took part in a world tour that included stops in several African countries like Nigeria in 1967.


A match between Santos and the Nigerian National Team was played on Jan. 26, 1967 with the two portions of the country at war agreeing to a 48-hour ceasefire so they could watch Pelé play. Military officers from both sides of the war stood side by side to help keep the crowd and players safe.

No violence was reported from the event, with the war on pause to admire Pele and the beautiful game of soccer. Pelé scored two goals for Santos that were cheered by the fans in the country.

Pelé​​​​​​​ Boosts Soccer's Popularity In US: Hailed as a hero in Brazil, the country’s government prevented Pelé from going to play for European clubs.

Pelé retired from Santos after the 1972 season. While semi-retired, Pele joined the New York Cosmos, a North American Soccer League team, in 1975. The signing of Pelé provided a boost to the North American league decades before Major League Soccer was ever a thing.

Pelé helped the Cosmos to the 1977 North American Soccer League title and scored 37 goals and 30 assists in 64 games across his three seasons. Pelé signed a $2.8-million contract across the three seasons, which made him the highest-paid athlete in the world at the time. Pelé won the league’s MVP award in 1976.

The debut match for Pelé for the Cosmos set a then-television record in the U.S. for the sport of soccer, watched by over 10 million people on CBS. The team also set several attendance records including for U.S. Soccer at 62,394 and North America at 77,691. League attendance nearly doubled in the three years Pele was active.

Pelé's last match was an exhibition game between his two teams, Santos and the New York Cosmos. The game was played in New Jersey in front of a then-record 77,691 people. Pelé played the first half for the Cosmos and the second half for Santos.

Read Next: Soccer Legend Pele Asks Putin To STop His Wicked And Unjustifiable Invasion Of Ukraine 

Photo via Shutterstock. 

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