Pelé’s legendary playing career was over before I was even born, yet as a young child lacing up my little classic Adidas cleats in an oversized club uniform, I knew exactly who he was and what he meant to the soccer world.
The iconic image of Pelé with his infectious smile and his fist in the air after scoring in the 1970 World Cup final will forever live in my mind.
In grade school, we were asked to decorate a folder with images that represented our likes and interests. As someone whose interests were many, my folder was an eclectic mix of people and passions. And there, dominating the cover with his fist high in the air among cutouts of piano sheet music and Julie Andrews twirling on a hill in The Sound of Music, was Pelé.
Pelé represented everything there is to love about the sport. He made it a beautiful game, and with joy and enthusiasm accompanying his skillful talent he brought the world along with him on his beautiful journey.
Pelé’s influence stretched beyond Brazil
From 1975-1977 Pelé brought his version of the beautiful game to the United States and spurred interest in a sport that had always taken a back seat to America’s pastime, baseball. On torn-up fields in the waning years of his career, he still shone brightly.
Soccer has given us a handful of other all-time greats including Maradona and Messi, but even as the sport evolves and new heroes emerge, Pelé remains the image of soccer itself … the original No.10.
Just as his influence and impact lasted well beyond his farewell match in 1977, his legacy and importance to the world of soccer will continue well beyond his time on this earth.
He brought beauty to a game and magic into our lives, and his name, short and simple, will be remembered forever.