Brazilian soccer great Pele scores his 1,000th professional goal in a game, against Vasco da Gama in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium. It was a major milestone in an illustrious career that included three World Cup championships.
Pele, considered one of the greatest soccer players ever to take the field, was born Edson Arantes do Nascimento in Tres Coracos, Brazil, in 1940. He acquired the nickname Pele during his childhood though the name has no meaning in his native Portuguese. When he was a teenager, he played for a minor league soccer club in Bauru in Sao Paulo state and in 1956 joined the major league Santos Football Club in the city of Sao Paulo, playing inside left forward. Two years later, he led the Brazilian national team to victory in the World Cup. Pele, who was only 17 years old, scored two goals to defeat Sweden in the final.
Pele was blessed with speed, balance, control, power, and an uncanny ability to anticipate the movements of his opponents and teammates. Although just five feet eight inches tall, he was a giant on the field, leading Santos to three national club championships, two South American championships, and the world club title in 1963. Under Pele’s leadership, Brazil won the World Cup in 1958, 1962, and 1970. In 1970, Brazil was granted permanent possession of the World Cup’s Jules Rimet Trophy as a tribute to its dominance. On November 19, 1969, Pele scored his 1,000th goal on a penalty kick against Vasco da Gama. Eighty thousand adoring fans in Maracana stadium cheered him wildly, even though Santos was the opposing team.
Pele announced his retirement in 1974 but in 1975 accepted a $7 million contract to play with the New York Cosmos. He led the Cosmos to a league championship in 1977 and did much to promote soccer in the United States. On October 1, 1977, in Giants Stadium, he played his last professional game in a Cosmos match against his old team Santos.
During his long career, Pele scored 1,282 goals in 1,363 games. In 1978, Pele was given the International Peace Award and in 1993 he was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame. Since retiring, he has acted as an international ambassador for his sport and has worked with the United Nations and UNICEF to promote peace and international reconciliation through friendly athletic competition.