Pelé is a global superstar, a player like no other. Widely regarded as the greatest footballer of all-time, his ability on the pitch is still the benchmark of greatness.
Blessed with electrifying pace, tremendous vision, outstanding ball control and powerful shooting, Pelé scored his first international goal aged just 16. Setting numerous records at club and international level, Pelé is the only man to win the World Cup three times. 40 years may have passed since Pelé’s final appearance for the New York Cosmos yet his fame and universal appeal remain surpassed by very few.
Working in partnership with the Halcyon Gallery, Pelé: Art, Life, Football honours the Brazilian icon’s life; from Santos to New York via 4 World Cups, through the eyes of acclaimed artists and photographers from around the world.
This online exhibition focuses on the objects featured in the exhibition. A second online exhibition will showcase the artworks and artists who created them.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento was born on 23 October 1940 in Três Corações, Brazil. He was named after American inventor Thomas Edison.
Edson put aside his original dream of being a pilot, and inspired by his father, became consumed by football.
Pelé’s potential was obvious from an early age. In 1956, his coach Waldemar de Brito told Santos directors that the 15 year old would one day be the greatest footballer in the world.
With the hopes of a nation again upon the shoulders of the Brazilian football team, Pelé was given an opportunity to make history on the world stage.
Santos Success Story
Despite the pressure of such high expectations, Pelé immediately repaid Santos’ faith in him. He finished his first full season as top scorer with 41 goals and won the first of ten state championship titles a year later.
After a gruelling playing schedule involving over 100 matches in a year, Pelé arrived with Brazil for the 1962 World Cup in Chile hoping to retain the trophy.
Despite missing the chance to play in a second World Cup final victory for Brazil, Pelé had become one of the biggest names in world football.
Brazil arrived in England as favourites to take home the World Cup in 1966, but other teams had developed their own ways of dealing with the threat of Pelé.
Pelé’s two year exile from the national team was ended in 1968 when he scored twice in a 4-0 win over Paraguay. In the same year, Pelé and Santos won all five major tournaments they had entered.
Following his unprecedented hat-trick of World Cup wins, Pelé brought his international career to an emotional end.
Partly necessitated by business troubles, Pelé made a return to football. An offer had been made to him by New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League back in 1971 and they were still very keen to bring the star to the US.
King of New York
Pelé’s first season with the Cosmos saw them miss out on the play-offs but there were already signs of improvement.
Sound and Vision
After the end of his football career, Pelé remained a visible part of football and popular culture, taking on new roles as a UN ‘Citizen of the World’, a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, actor and musician.
Player of the Century
Despite his time on the pitch having come to an end, Pelé maintained an involvement in Brazilian football and continued to receive numerous honours and awards from across the sporting world.
Pelé: Art Life Football Gifts
Browse a range of products related to our Pelé: Art Life Football exhibition in the National Football Museum online shop.
Every purchase made helps to support the museum.