R.I.P. Pelé.

Before Messi and Ronaldo, there were arguments over Pelé and Maradona. I couldn’t say much about the eventually friendly rivalry, because by the time I was even remotely knowledgeable about professional soccer, Pelé had been retired for ages and Maradona had descended into drug-addled villainy (in other words, it was 1990). Weird start to a quick eulogy, I know, but my argument for Pelé was, and remains, simple.

At 17, Pelé scored five goals in the two biggest games you could play in: the World Cup semifinal and final.

At 20, his government literally declared him a national treasure so that he’d never play club ball outside Brazil.

At 27, the Nigerian Civil War was paused so the combatants could watch him play.

At 34, a few years after retirement, he joined the New York Cosmos and, for a fleeting moment in the Age of Disco and Stagflation, made soccer the biggest ticket in the US.

And then, of course, there’s the bazillion goals he scored.

There’s a lot to be said for other players in terms of skill and achievement, and if I were objective enough I might name a few guys who technically were better players. But none were greater.

Look back at that list– forget the bazillion goals, because I’m sure a few hundred of them are in dispute here and there– look back at that crazy list, and tell me who matches that.

Nobody. The man stands alone.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.