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Edson Nascimento Arantes (Pele) 1940–2022

The world was recently thrown into mourning when the news broke that renowned Brazilian footballer and global icon, Edson Nascimento Arantes, popularly known as Pele,…

The world was recently thrown into mourning when the news broke that renowned Brazilian footballer and global icon, Edson Nascimento Arantes, popularly known as Pele, had died on Friday, December 30, 2022, at the age of 82. His death followed an illness that kept him in for a long in hospital. By his death, his country, Brazil and the rest of the world have lost one of the most notable global icons who flourished in positive representation of several areas of human endeavour.  

Starting at the tender age of 17, when he first played for the Brazilian national football team in 1957, Pele would rise to impose an enduring personal influence on world football simply through his dexterity on the field of play, as well as his personal conduct and engagements off the pitch. 

In the days when football was yet to enjoy some of the advances in facilities, as well as regulatory protocols enjoyed by modern players, he was able to win laurels and acclaim from recording feats with 77 international goals in 92 appearances for his country. He was also one of only four players ever to score at least a goal in consecutive World Cup tournaments.

The fact that he enjoys the unmatched record of being the only player in history to have won the World Cup in three different tournaments, namely 1958, 1962 and 1970, says much of his dexterity and talent as far as the beautiful game is concerned. In fact, the world football governing body FIFA ranks him officially as the ‘greatest footballer of all time’. 

CDS Irabor bags Online news platform’s Award

CDS Irabor bags Online news platform’s Award

But Pele was much more than a Brazilian star footballer, as he added to his prowess on the football pitch the commendable role of helping make the game globally popular and making it the number one sport in the world. Today, there is hardly any country across the world that does not take part in one level of the playoffs for the World Cup tournament.

Hinging on his popularity in soccer he found himself adopted severally to serve as an ambassador for numerous charities. He had also once served as Brazil’s minister of sport. 

Pele’s association with football was not accidental but the result of early grooming by his father, Joao Ramos do Nascimento (1917–1996), known better on the football pitch as ‘Dondinho’ who not only played professional football with several clubs in Brazil, including the great Fluminense but also mentored his son Pele. His mother, Dona Celeste, is alive and marked her 100th birthday last year as her son passed on. This is even though he did not grow up with the proverbial silver spoon. Hence his was a family that got whatever it earned in life through the dint of personal struggle.  

With respect to Pele’s dominant influence on global sports, especially football, he represented the flourishing and profusion of superlative enterprise of blacks in the Brazilian society with its uniqueness in diversity. He represented much of the expected results from early grooming of the youth in a discipline that comes from sporting ventures.

It is remarkable that a footballer, who never played in a European club side, with Europe being the home of soccer, could dominate global scene as much as Pele did. By his own admission, he was nearly signed by some European club sides from his Santos club base in Brazil, but it did not work out. Rather, it was in the US that he played his last professional football before retiring. This fact further attests to the spectacular contributions he made to the game from whichever theatre he plied his trade.  

Much has been written and said about the man, Pele, and his exploits in the field of football to make his roots of significant interest, especially for countries like Nigeria, which is capable of producing several Peles but is facing the challenge of arrested development in its sports administration.

There are numerous lessons from Pele’s life that provide guidance, especially with respect to the mentoring he enjoyed from his father, a star footballer in his own right. And that is where the lessons from his connection with his footballing father fit in. The lessons of his life tell how a young black man from a poor family can rise to global prominence through the play-out of effective mentoring at a tender age, by a veteran, with the result of unmatched enterprise and skill. He ended up not only as an asset to his country but to the world. Through the superlative enterprise of Pele, his country, Brazil, attracted global attention and rubbed shoulders with the frontline nations of the world. This is due to the power of sports, not only as an instrument for social development but also as a unifier of the world.

Nigeria has generations of outstanding sports personalities who are today languishing in abandonment. If nothing else, they can be harnessed to train the Peles we need to shore up our sporting fortunes.