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Pele

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Best, Maradona, Eusabio, Platini, Cruyff, Zico, di Stefano, Beckenbauer, Zidane, Heskey. Nine of the greatest players to have ever graced a football pitch at any time in any place on Planet Fussball, and a bloke who couldn’t hit a barn door from 2 yards out. Of course, there is one glaring omission from this list of soccer’s who’s who, and that is a certain Edson Arantes do Nascimento. Or to put him in more familiar terms, Pele. A muscular man, compact in stature at just 5ft 8 inches in height and weighing 68kg in his prime, Pele possessed the perfect combination of physical power, imperious ball control and an instinct for exposing an opponent’s weakness in but the blink of an eye. Or rather, a shimmy, a dropped shoulder or a step over. What’s more, Pele’s sublime passing, eye for goal and tactical awareness was second to none in the game, all of which naturally blessed qualities ensured that Pele rose through the ranks in no time at all, rapidly cementing his place in the world football hall of fame.

Born in 1940 in Tres Coracoes in Brazil, Pele was handed this nickname, which stuck with him through his personal and professional life, by his football contemporaries, whilst his family referred to him as ‘Dico’ from the outset. Noted as an all-round good athlete, Pele showed a natural flair and passion for football over any other sporting discipline during his formative years, and was regularly lining up against experienced, senior players before he even reached double figures in age. As Pele’s reputation at this junior level grew, it wasn’t long before he was brought to the attention of movers and shakers in the Brazilian game, and one such individual who himself was observed as one of the best players of his particular generation. Waldemar De Brito was soon introduced to an 11 year old Pele, who made it his business to monitor and guide this precocious talent and acted as something of an unofficial advisor as Pele progressed through the junior football ranks. Four years later and at 15 Pele was brought to Sao Paulo’s iconic Santos club by De Brito, and during that very same year, 1956, Pele made his professional debut for the senior team, playing in the Brazilian national league.

Before long Pele forged a reputation as a prodigious goal-getter, and within 12 months he had earned a call-up to Brazil’s famous national team, in recognition of his blistering form in the domestic league. Less than 2 years later and Pele was lifting the Holy Grail of football, the World Cup aloft as he spearheaded Brazil’s ascension to the pinnacle of global football dominance; a feat he repeated on two further occasion after 1958, strengthening Brazil’s hold on the Jules Rimmet trophy in both 1962 and 1970.

Four years on from being key to Brazil capturing the World Cup for the third time in 1970, Pele decided to call it a day, yet any talk of a retirement was suddenly deemed premature as emerging North American football club, the New York Cosmos wanted the world’s most famous footballer to help them put the greatest game on the map in a country which found association football a long way down the sporting pecking order, after American Football, Baseball, Basketball, Ice Hockey and tiddlywinks, probably.

So in 1974 Pele signed with The Cosmos – with the added incentive of a multi-million pound contract which instantly made him the highest paid sportsman in the world at the time – and began transforming the image of ‘soccer’ Stateside. Much in the same fashion (and with the same mandate) that a certain David Beckham has in recent years. And again, with similar carrots dangled. Pele remained with The Cosmos for two years, and although his pace was on the wane on account of his advancing years, Pele’s role both on and off the pitch was proving priceless as he assumed the unofficial position of minister without portfolio; or in footballing parlance, a global ambassador for the club/profile of the game around the world.

With reference to Pele’s art, it’s all about the image of the man as a professional footballer during pivotal moments in his career, including such iconic shots of him, shirtless, lifting the World Cup in 1970, executing a bicycle kick, being photographed in the company of another soccer great, George Best and meeting Muhammad Ali to name just a brief selection available. Essentially the original photographs have been transferred and re-worked as giclee presented works of individual art, which have all been signed by Pele himself for authentification purposes.