Edson Arantes do Nascimento was one of the most iconic soccer players in the history of the sport and sadly passed away at the age of 82 on Thursday. He was better known worldwide as Pelé and is one of the all-time legends, being the only player to have won three World Cups. The Brazilian legend explained to Sky Sports, saying also that he was proud that his name Edson was inspired by American inventor Thomas Edison. His parents were inspired by the fact that he was born in the morning, and “the light arrived in the same moment I was born,” he explained. “I was very proud of this name, I was telling everybody about it.”
But what about his nickname? Later he moved to another city since his father Dondinho was also a soccer player and started to play in a new team. Here is where the multiple stories about his famous nickname began.
“In Portuguese, when you kick the ball with the foot we say ‘Pe’, and maybe I made some mistakes, I don’t know, but my teammates started to say ‘Pe-lé’, more and more,” the Brazilian said. “I didn’t like it because my name was Edson, but it started and here I am. Anyway, my family and the ones [who] are close to me still call me Dico. That’s what they call me at home.”
His family and close friends called him Dico as a youngster and he would get into scuffles on the pitch whenever someone referred to him as Pelé. So where and how did the term Pelé really come about? His father was a professional soccer player for a tiny club called Vasco de São Lourenço and was teammates with goalkeeper José Lino da Conceição Faustino, who was nicknamed “Bilé.” Believe it or not, as a child, Edson’s favorite position was goalkeeper, and when he would brace himself to save shots fired his way, he would shout “segura, Bilé,” as a battle cry in honor of his dad’s teammate. Kids would poke fun at it and Bilé eventually morphed into Pelé.
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Before his death on Dec. 29, Pelé had been in and out of the hospital over the last few years, dealing with various medical issues, including pain as the result of hip surgery. In January, he was discharged from the hospital after two days of cancer treatment while he had a colon tumor removed last year, undergoing chemotherapy ever since, according to Reuters. He returned to the Albert Einstein hospital in Sao Paulo on Nov. 29th for “re-evaluation of the chemotherapy treatment over the colon cancer identified in September 2021,” according to a statement from the hospital at the time.
Pelé spent most of his career with Brazilian giants Santos, scoring 618 goals in 636 games. He helped Brazil win the World Cups of 1958, 1962 and 1970 while he also played a big role in the increased interest in the sport in the United States after his retirement from the national team.
Pelé signed for the New York Cosmos of the NASL and played from 1975-77. A striker, one of the most prolific scorers in history, he had 655 goals from 700 official club games. The first-ever Brazilian Minister of Sports, he also holds countless records and was named FIFA Player of the Century, alongside Diego Maradona.
He is currently tied as Brazil’s all-time leading scorer with 77 goals, level with Neymar. He was also named the Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee in 1999. The superstar also recorded 1,281 career goals, including non-official matches, in a total of 1,363 appearances. Pelé is also the youngest player to ever score in a World Cup and the youngest to ever appear in the final.