I’ll admit, when I first saw people on twitter saying Pele was dead I was taken aback. I mean, he’s arguably the best footballer ever. Heck, he might even be the best athlete ever. He was a global phenomenon, his name was everywhere. I’d say only Michael Jordan and Muhammed Ali are the only two other athletes who had as big an impact on their sport as Pele did. Messi, Ronaldo, and Lebron James come to mind as others who seem close to being part of this elite group, but they’re still too young. Jordan, Ali, and Pele have been around their sports their whole lives, and to measure or rank their impact is almost impossible.
Everyone knows the story of Pele. Brazil’s all time leading goalscorer, the only man to win three World Cups (winning his first at only 17), over 1000 career goals. He could do everything; dribble, pass, shoot, control, etc. His legacy grew more and more as the achievements piled up. By the time he came to play in New York for the Cosmos, he was already a footballing, “god”. He used his ability for humanitarian purposes, playing games to raise awarness for the Lebanesse and Haitian democratic revolutions. When he finally decided it was time to retire, the New York Cosmos invited his former team, Santos FC, to New York for a friendly match. The game was broadcasted worldwide, and was attended by none other than Muhammed Ali.
What makes Pele so special is the impact that he had on future soccer players. All the greats talk about him like he was this ever so special man. Johan Cruyff, one of the most brilliant footballing minds in history said, “Pele was the only footballer who surpassed the boundaries of logic.” Such high praise from a man who was said to have created a whole style of football. If the greats call you great then you are special.
Being so young and so new to the sport I obviously missed the career of Pele. Sure there’s some video of him on Youtube, but the point is I can’t go out and tell you he’s the best player that I’ve ever seen. I take the word of others. It does seem like him and Messi were very similar players. Footballing, “gods”, two brains built for the sport. Over the next decade, as Messi’s career winds down, I’m sure we’ll hear alot of the Messi vs Pele debate. In the end it comes down to preference. Back when Pele played, club football wasnt as popular in Europe. The money hadnt filled in yet. It was more important for him to perform and win for Brazil which is what he did. In today’s game, you are judged based off of what you do for your club. Messi is the greatest club player ever based off of statistics. Take who you want, but at the end of the day the World Cup is the biggest tournament in soccer.
Winning is everything in sports. It’s why we play, it’s why we watch. It brings us to tears, whether in joy or in sadness. Seriel winners become icons, they become bigger than the sport itself. Pele won the biggest tournament in the world more than anyone else. It’s why we’ll never forget him. It’s why everyone knows who he is whether you like soccer or not. We should all be glad that he is still amongst us, and should continue to cherish every moment that he gives us in the game that he made so popular.