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The Name 'Pele' Stirs Memories
 

Pele (born Edson Arantes de Nascimento) possesses perhaps the most famous nickname in sports history. Yet, strangely enough, even the man who has been called by this name all these years does not know how it originated or what it really means.

Born October 23, 1940, in Tres Coracoes, Brazil Pele's life with a soccer ball is the stuff of dreams that began with a stuffed sock. As a poor youth he learned to kick a 'soccer ball' that was actually an old stuffed sock. Years later, after scoring his 1,000th goal, Pele was awarded a four-pound soccer ball made of gold.

French President Charles de Gaulle Made Pele a Knight of the Order of Merit. A company in Brazil named a coffee after him that in the coffee-mad land became a bestseller. His legs were so valuable they were insured for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In 1960, after several European countries offered him $1 million to sign up with their clubs, the government of Brazil declared him a national asset making it impossible for him to leave Brazil without official permission.

Pele's power and prestige was such that the Nigerian-Biafran war was halted for a day to allow Pele and his teammates to play a game and then depart without incident for more peaceful surroundings.

The great soccer player also met Pope Paul VI.

"Don't be nervous my son. I am more nervous than you. I have been waiting to meet Pele personally for a long time," the Pope reportedly said.

On June 10, 1975, Pele signed a three-year contract with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League. It was just 250 days after he had retired from his Santos, Brazil team. What took place was due in part to the efforts of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who told the Brazilian government that Pele's playing of soccer in the United States would do much for international relations.

After having scored more goals than any other player in the history of soccer, the great Pele retired on October 1, 1977 after his mission of giving the sport of soccer momentum in the United States was concluded.

He was called 'O Rei' in Brazil, 'La Tulipe Noire' in France, 'El Peligor' in Chile, 'II Re' in Italy, 'O Vasilas' in Greece and 'King Pele' wherever soccer zealots gathered.

The power, passion and personality of the man made most everyone forget his real name, Edson Arantes de Nascimento, and virtually everyone aware of his nickname, 'PELE.'
 

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You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

About the Author:

Harvey Frommer is in his  38th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to acclaim in 2011.  The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One. 

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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