Soccer’s biggest global icon discusses the sport he loves.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento, aka Pelé, is the greatest player in the history of soccer and one of the greatest athletes of all time. For decades, he has been his sport’s best ambassador. A winner of three World Cups for his native Brazil and a legend for Brazilian club Santos and for the short-lived New York Cosmos, Pelé is especially well-equipped to reflect on the “beautiful game,” a phrase that he may have coined. Not quite memoir, not quite history, this book provides an engaging reflection on international football in the World Cup era. Pelé’s voice shines through, and for this, Winter (Long After Midnight at the Niño Bien: A Yanqui’s Missteps in Argentina, 2008, etc.) deserves praise. The co-author captures Pelé’s passion and commitment in a chatty, conversational tone. Pelé uses five sections, based on different World Cups, to structure the narrative, beginning with the 1950 World Cup, which Brazil lost in heartbreaking—and for Brazilians, haunting—fashion. This beginning allows Pelé to tell of his boyhood, his relationship with his father, whose own football-playing career represents a what-might-have-been story, and his early exposure to the game. The four remaining sections center on the 1958 World Cup, which saw the first of Brazil’s world-record five world championships; 1970, another Brazil win and Pelé’s last cup as a player; 1994, which took place in the United States and which Pelé supported (over Brazil, which also wanted to host the event); and the upcoming 2014 Cup in Pelé’s native country, for which this book is timed.
Pelé never fully demonstrates “why soccer matters,” but he does provide insight into the world’s most popular game through the eyes of its most revered figure.