Underdog Story of the Day - Pelé

Underdog Story of the Day - Pelé


October 23, 1940, in Três Corações, Brazil, Edson Arantes do Nascimento was born. His mother and father, João Ramos and Dona Celeste, named him after Thomas Edison. The family moved to Bauru when Edson was a young boy.

Edson received the nickname Pelé from his classmates which he didn't like at all, very much so that he punched the classmate, getting suspended for two days. 

Edson's father was a professional soccer player, but quite unsuccessfully, struggling to support his family. Pelé grew up in poverty, kicking a rolled-up sock stuffed with rags around the streets of Bauru to simulate a soccer ball. Eventually, Pelé began his soccer career on a youth team coached by Waldemar de Brito, a former member of the Brazilian national soccer team. The coach saw his rare potential and convinced Pelé's family to let him leave home to try out for the Santos pro soccer club at the young age of 15.

He signed with Santos and scored his first professional goal before his 16th birthday. His first full season he led the league in goals, catching the eye of the Brazilian national team. Pelé quickly became a known name in the sport, officially becoming a world-known player in his performance at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. At 17, he scored three goals in a 5-2 semifinal win over France, and continued his performance when he scored two in the finals for a 5-2 win over Sweden.

After, he received eye-popping offers from a variety of different European clubs. Brazilian President Jânio Quadros had Pelé declared as a national treasure, making it legally difficult for him to play in another country other than his own. Nevertheless, the ownership of Santos pro club made sure their superstar was well-paid, scheduling exhibition matches against teams all around the world.

Despite injuries in following World Cup appearances, Pelé's legend continued. In the late 1960's, the Nigerian Government and the secessionist state of Biafra reportedly came to an agreement to ceasefire for 48 hours in the Nigerian Civil War so they could watch Pelé play in the exhibition game in Lagos.

In his career, he won three World Cups and scored 1,281 goals in 1,363 games. Post-retirement he went on to receive the International Peace Award and he was named FIFA's Co-Player of the Century in 1999.

WATCH: How Pelé continues to affect the world after his play on the field.


Pelé is the perfect example of how no matter your background, no matter you race, no matter your age, you can change the world. For someone who came from extreme poverty, he was able to unite everyone across the globe. Not only did he affect people during his playing days, but he continues to influence soccer players and individuals around the world at the age of 79. As Steve Jobs once said, "the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."


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