PelÚ He was born Minas Gerais, Brazil, the son of Fluminense Football Club footballer Jo˝o Ramos do Nascimento, also known as Dondinho.
He was named after American bulb inventor Thomas Edison, and did not receive the nickname "Pel├ę" until his school days. He originally disliked the nickname, but the more he complained the more he was called by it. Later in life, when reflecting that the world came to know the name, he stated his belief that it was chosen for him by God. The fans loved him.
Growing up in poverty on the streets of Bauru, S˝o Paulo, he could not afford a football and usually played with either a sock stuffed with papers or a grapefruit. He was given his first leather ball on his sixth birthday by his father's teammate, Sosa. At the age of eleven, Pel├ę was scouted by Brazilian legend Waldemar de Brito and was invited to join de Brito's amateur team, Clube Atl├ętico Bauru. In 1956, Pele's mentor took him to the city of S˝o Paulo, to try out for professional club Santos Futebol Clube.
De Brito told the directors at Santos that the 15-year-old would be "the greatest football player in the world." Pel├ę was offered professional terms and scored four goals in his first league game. When the new season started, Pel├ę was given a starting place in the first team and, at the age of just sixteen, became the top scorer in the league. Just ten months after signing professionally, the teenager was called up to the Brazilian national team.
In Football World Cup 1958, Pel├ę became the youngest ever World Cup winner in Sweden at 17, scoring two goals in the final as Brazil crushed Sweden 5-2 in Stockholm. He played in three more Brazilian World Cup teams in 1962, 1966 and 1970, two of which Brazil won (1962 and 1970).
Although his contributions were limited in the 1962 and 1966 campaigns because of injuries inflicted by opposition players, the 1970 tournament in Mexico was to be Pel├ę's last. The 1970 team, featuring famous players like Rivelino, Jairzinho, G├ęrson, and Tost˝o, is often considered to be the greatest team ever.
Brazil defeated Italy 4-1 in the final, with Pel├ę scoring one and gloriously setting up Carlos Alberto for another in what some still consider to be the finest ever World Cup.
Pel├ę's technique and deft touch combined with his dribbling skills and scoring ability cannot be overstated. His most spectacular signature move was probably the "bicycle kick". He scored over twelve hundred career goals in all competitions, the biggest haul by far among famous players.
After his retirement from Brazilian football on 2 October 1974, he joined the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League. A reported $7,000,000 contract for three years made him the highest paid soccer player of the North American Soccer League.
During the three seasons playing for the Cosmos he was named in the annual NASL First Team: the 11 best players of a particular season. He was also named as the league's most valuable player in 1976.
His lucrative contract for Cosmos meant that Pele had to play in the regular US-based NASL season but also travel the World playing many exhibition games. During the 3 years Pele played for Cosmos, he played matches in countries such as: China, Japan, Sweden, Bermuda and Uganda.
In his final year as a professional player, the NY Cosmos won the 1977 NASL Championship. During that season Pele was joined by fellow Brazilian Carlos Alberto and "the Kaiser", Franz Beckenbauer.
He played his last game as a professional in a friendly on October 1, 1977, in front of a capacity crowd at Giants Stadium against his old club, Santos; he played the first half with the Cosmos and the second half with Santos. The exhibition game was sold out six weeks beforehand.
Pel├ę did appear in a few friendly games for the Cosmos after he retired in 1977. Due to falling attendances the Cosmos did try to bring Pel├ę out of retirement a second time, but he declined.
He was received in the Vatican by three popes, John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II.
In 1995, President Cardoso appointed Pel├ę to the position of Minister of Sports.
Pel├ę is a long-standing contributor for children's rights at UNICEF and acts as the figurehead of a charity for erectile dysfunction. Pel├ę is certainly one of the most famous men in football, with his nickname being recognized even by those unfamiliar with the sport.
In 2005, Pel├ę drew international media attention due to the imprisonment of Edson Cholbi Nascimento, his son and ex-goalkeeper of Santos Futebol Clube, who was arrested in an operation to dismantle a drug gang in southeastern Brazil.
Nascimento, the younger (then 35) was arrested along with some 50 other people after an eight-month investigation into a cocaine trafficking operation in the port city of Santos.
Recently Pel├ę scouted for Premiership Football Team Fulham FC.