...there are actually people who don’t like football.
Yes, yes, hard to believe, I know, but I’ve actually met two of them myself.
Both lived in North America and persisted in calling the sport “sucker” (or something like that).
I have, therefore, taken it upon myself to write a series of posts designed to teach those benighted folks, and others like them, the error of their ways.
I will be posting sporadic educational articles on The World’s Most Popular Sport up until the last game of the 2014 World Cup.
This is article #1, a simple test to assess how much you already know. Please look at this picture:
If you do, just scroll down to the embedded videos, play them and be awed. If not, read on – and learn.
The photo is of Edson Arantes do Nascimento.
In Brazil, we call him O Rei (The King.)
Most of the world knows him as Pelé. In 1999, the International Olympic Committee named him The Athlete of the Century. In that same year, the French (yes, French) football magazine France-Football asked their surviving Player of the Year winners to elect the Player of the Century. Pelé won. And, again in that same year, he was voted Football Player of the Century by the IFFHS. (International Federation of Football History and Statistics)
In the course of his career, he scored 760 official goals, 541 in league championships, and appeared in a total of 1363 official matches. He is the top-scoring player in the history of professional football.
He began with Santos, the club he made famous.
Back then, he was only 15 years old.
He went on to win his first World Cup when he was just 17 years old. Can you imagine? 17!
One of the most commonly asked questions about him is the source of his nickname. Some folks think it has some meaning in Portuguese. But it doesn’t. Pelé, himself, has said that he has no idea where it came from.
He grew up in poverty in Bauru, a small city in the interior of the State of São Paulo, and couldn’t afford a proper football. He learned to play the game with a sock, stuffed with newspaper and tied with a string. But he learned quickly.
And was soon proficient on the ground...
...and in the air.
Pelé believes his most beautiful goal was scored on the 2nd of August, 1959, when Santos was playing their traditional rival, Juventus for the Championship of the State of São Paulo. It was a goal that brought the Santos supporters to their feet and kept them there – cheering – for a full ten minutes. There was no video of this match. A few years ago Pelé asked that computer animation be made of that specific goal. My wife, Eide, was involved in a project to bring him to New York, where the job could be done by hooking him up to sensors so that the goal could be reproduced. She recalls it as being one of the most memorable things she has done in her career.
Click below to see a few of the goals that made Pelé famous. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the sport, I’m sure you’ll appreciate the artistry that made him what he was.
Note, especially, the way he dribbles around his opponents, particularly in the one case where he fails to score a goal by a matter of centimeters. He kicks the ball one way, goes the other and then circles around for the goal shot.
Note, too, his mastery of the “bicycle kick”, where he faces away from the goal and kicks the ball backward over his head.
Unfortunately, the television coverage, back in those days, wasn’t very good.
But, these days, it’s spectacular.
And, for that reason, I’ve added the material below.
Neymar is already, widely regarded as the “next Pelé.
Do yourself a favor and kill the audio. It's an annoying bit of rap. But the images are spectacular.
Neymar, like Pelé has elected to stay in the country – at least for a while – rather than accept an offer from any of the European clubs. And he plays for the King's old club, Santos.
Neymar is only twenty years old, and many non-Brazilian aficionados of the sport have yet to hear of him.
But barring (God forbid!) injury, we’ll be seeing a lot of him in 2014.
Leighton - Monday