Each era has its heroes and stars. Today’s football world is dominated by players like David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi, who are role models to many young players, but I wonder how long their influence will last.
There is one player that has stood the test of time and is the greatest World Cup player of all time. Pelé appeared in four World Cups, 1958, 1962, 1966 and 1970, scoring 12 goals – the third most by any player – and creating many more. It was his first and last tournaments in Sweden and Mexico respectively that cemented his reputation as a world great.
In 1958, Pelé was 17 and had been playing for Santos and Brazil for one year. No one could imagine what an impact the boy from Três Corações in the south of Brazil would have on the tournament, but by the time he had scored four goals, including a hatrick against France in the semis, on the way to reaching the final everyone knew he was special. In the final, he scored one of the goals of the century – a precise chest-down, a deliciously weighted lob over a defender, polished off with a clinical volley. Pelé scored another as Brazil overcame Sweden 5-2 He became and the youngest player to score a hatrick in a World Cup, and appear and score in a final.
In 1970, in Mexico, Pelé was back to his best as part of the 1970 Brazil team which included such players as Jairzinho, Rivelino, Gérson and Tostão. It was samba football at its pinnacle and Pelé was involved in many breathtaking goals and moves during the tournament, but perhaps the famous was an attack that resulted in what is often regarded as the perfect goal. In the final against Italy, Clodoaldo dribbled past four Italians, played the ball to Rivelino who struck a long pass down the left to Jairzinho. From Jairzinho, Pelé received the ball just outside the box in the middle of the field before waiting for the perfect moment to stroke the ball right into the path of Carlos Alberto, who smashed it into the net.
Goal scorer and goal maker, Pelé’s close control and timing have not been surpassed. His obvious love for the game has seen him become a UNESCO goodwill ambassador and a recognised face beyond the football world. Perhaps this quote by Italian defender Burgnich, who marked Pelé during the 1970 World Cup final illustrates what a great player Pelé was, “I told myself before the game, he’s made of skin and bones just like everyone else — but I was wrong.”
Here are explanations of some of the words and phrases from the reading.
to dominate: to overpower others, to be the most important, to reign
role model: someone who young people want to copy / emulate
to stand the test of time: endure, remain unchanged for a long time, be permanent, last a long time
to cement (your) reputation: to make your reputation even stronger, make people think you are even better
impact: effect, impression
deliciously: delightfully, do something in a way that makes people admire it – Here, the lob was so good people were amazed
clinical: accurate, allowing for no error
pinnacle: the very top
to stroke the ball: pass the ball accurately and smoothly
to surpass: to get ahead of, to beat, to do better