King Pele: When A Preternatural Sports Brand Takes A Bow
The procession of his casket in Santos, Brazil that culminated in his final rest last Tuesday symbolised the final chapter of the world’s biggest personality brand in soccer.
It was a final that started with his demise on Dec. 29, 2022, when he was compelled by colon cancer to take a bow and join the saints.
A global legend, Edson Arentes Do Nacimento popularly known as Pele is the only player to have won three World Cups and was named FIFA’s Player of the Century in 2000.
Thousands of fans had gathered on the streets as the hearse carrying his coffin arrived at the stadium of his former club.
With a majority of the mourners wearing No.10 Santos and Brazil jersey, made popular by Pele. In the words of Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, as reported by Reuters. “Pele is incomparable, as a soccer player and as a human being,”
Pele began his playing career at 15 with Santos and made his debut for his country at the age of 16. He appeared at four World Cups, winning three – in 1958, 1962, and 1970.
After Pele won the World Cup for Brazil and countless trophies with Santos, his move to New York Cosmos seemed out of step, but it ended up being an important decision that helped spark interest in soccer in the United States.
Known for his smooth dribbling and accurate finishing, Pele drew thousands of fans to see him at Giant Stadium, and he was often just too much for his competition.
Pele’s matches regularly drew more than 65,000 people — something unusual even today in America. Although his legacy in the world of soccer has long been cemented but his days in the US seemed to put him in a different stratosphere. He made Americans care about soccer.
Several years ago, he told The Guardian: ‘It was the best thing I did in my life. I thank God for that because I became better known around the world after I came here.'”
After winning the Soccer Bowl in 1977 Pele retired after an exhibition match between Cosmos and Santos at the Giants Stadium.
Pelé was soccer’s global face for decades and is regarded by many as its best player of all time. He rose to eternalize a powerful and creative style of play. A great number of people worldwide believe him to be the greatest soccer player who ever lived. Even people who don’t know football knew Pelé.
Thanks to his subsequent careers as politician, international sporting ambassador and cultural icon,. He was given the title of Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee. Time magazine listed Pelé as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century.
Pele was a trailblazer when it came to endorsement deals for soccer players In 1970 he reportedly pulled off one of the first global sporting PR stunts on the biggest stage imaginable
Brazil was facing Peru at the World Cup, and just before the quarterfinal kicked off, Pele had the referee delay the start of the game so he could tie up his boot laces on the centre spot.
According to Barbara Smit’s book “Sneaker Wars: The Enemy Brothers Who Founded Adidas and Puma and the Family Feud That Forever Changed the Business of Sports,” this was a deliberate ruse to allow the cameras to linger on Pele’s new signature Puma football boots, knowing that millions of people would be glued to their television sets at that moment.
The book claims that Pele was paid $25,000 for just that role in the stunt as part of a bigger deal that saw him endorsing Puma sportswear for the next four years
Despite his focus on football, Pele also found time to appear in several movies and TV shows, with the IMDB crediting him with 11 roles.
His acting life range from a star turn bicycle-kicking army corporal, Luis Fernandez in “Escape to Victory” (1981) to a cameo as himself in “Mike Bassett: England Manager” (2001).
Pele is also known to have love for music and was regularly photographed strumming away on his guitar while enjoying his down time.
Even in his 80s, Pele also dabbled into pop music and he released a song with Grammy award-winning star. Rodrigo Gabriela called “Acredita No Veio” (“Listen To The Old Man”).
Pele himself actually wrote the song in 2005 as an ode to his former coach at Santos, who would blame the players personally if they lost a game but then credit magical forces if they won.
FIFA president, Gianni Infantino paid glowing tributes to the king of football during the funeral.
“Pele is eternal,” Infantino stressed. “FIFA will certainly honour the ‘king’ as he deserves. We have asked all football associations in the world to pay a minute of silence before every game and will also ask them, 211 countries, to name a stadium after Pele. Future generations must know and remember who Pele was.”
This proposal of FIFA president, Gianni Infantino about immortalizing Brazil’s football great Late Edison Arantes Do Nascimento aka Pele has started to gain recognition.
Cape Verde was the first country to take the step as they name the 15,000-capacity stadium in their capital after the former Santos player.
Guinea Bissau promptly followed suit as the country’s president Umaro Sissoco Embalo named Estadio Rocha stadium after Pele.
Many world leaders paid tribute as they mourned the soccer legend. Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari also joined other world leaders in expressing grief over the death of Brazilian soccer legend, Edson Arantes do Nascimento.
In a tribute to the football legend on behalf of all Nigerians, President Buhari said, “May he rest in peace. He led a good life and made a huge contribution to the development of global football in particular and world sport in general.
“He had an enormous generosity of spirit and humility despite his greatness as a footballer and sportsman.
He also built bridges across nations, races and even religions. He was a UN Ambassador of goodwill. Pele is gone but the world will never forget him. “