Soccer great Pelé’s story has been told far, wide, and well, but Simon and Brascaglia provide the full context—its cultural, economic, political, and physical geography—it deserves.
Pelé—there simply isn’t a more recognizable word in the world of soccer. His numbers alone are absurd, and his ball handling appeared to be controlled by some anti-gravitational device. Then there’s his attitude, his radiant smile—in a key early moment, the book shows how his father, an ex-pro, was a major influence on nurturing his natural gifts and teaching him how to find gratitude in his talent. The graphic panels have a range of moods and energy, the gloaming of the barrio of Três Corações, Brazil, with its plum reds and burnt browns, contrasting with the great, glittering stadiums. But in these panels, too, will be found the class differences that sunder Brazil, the political chicanery, corruption, and anti-democratic violence, along with the CIA’s cooperation therein. Pelé, to his abiding credit, disassociated himself from the Brazilian national team as a gesture against the violent junta ruling the country. The book doesn’t shy from his few rather unfortunate missteps of his own—personal ones as well as distasteful comments about soccer’s governing body and the building of the stadium in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.
This particularly smart delineation of Pelé has it all: his career, his blunders, decency, and goodness. And his gift. (Graphic biography. 8-16)