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Always Wanted to Play Football Like my Father, Says Pele

For every young boy, their father is the biggest role model in the formative years. In the case of Edson Arantes do Nascimento or Pele as he is more famously known, it was no different. Not only did he emulate his father, but also is the benchmark for greatness across generations of footballers.

News18 Sports

Updated:October 7, 2018, 2:51 PM IST
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New Delhi: For every young boy, their father is the biggest role model in the formative years. In the case of Edson Arantes do Nascimento or Pele as he is more famously known, it was no different. Not only did he emulate his father, but also is the benchmark for greatness across generations of footballers.



“As a young boy, I looked upto my father and just wanted to play football like him. My father was a very good player,” Pele told CNN-News18 in an exclusive interaction on the sidelines of the 16th annual Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi.

“Since I retired, they always compare the players with me to judge their greatness, it feels very good.” There’s an unmistakable twinkle of satisfaction in his eyes as he says that.

Pele turned professional when he was 15 and made his debut for Brazil at 16. At the age of 17 (Sweden 1958), he set a record that still holds as he became the youngest footballer to score in the final of a World Cup and win the coveted title. It was just the start of a great journey where, he would score 1,283 goals in 1,363 matches and become the only footballer to win the coveted Jules Rimet trophy thrice.

“Till today I cannot describe the feelings and memories from Sweden. I played against Argentina and then they chose me for the World Cup. That’s how it all started. I only knew how to play and thanks to God that was enough,” the legend says with a big smile.

After Sweden, the Seleção went onto defend their crown in 1962 in Chile. Four years later in the United Kingdom, they were knocked out in the group stages, before going onto win their third title in 1970 against Italy in Mexico. Brazil’s last title came in 2002 in Korea and Japan when they saw off Germany in the final.

“We (Brazil) will always not be at the top and that is how life is. One can’t be at the top always. We are going through bad phase and the players are not as good as before. This happened in 1966 when we lost in England and people were very worried but we came back to the top after that,” the legend says not holding back in his assessment of the current Brazilian team.

The 17-year-old Pele scored six goals, including a hat-trick in Sweden and a brace in the final against the hosts as Brazil won the first of their five World Cups. Six decades later another teenager, France’s Kylian Mbappe became the only person to match the great man’s achievement by scoring against Croatia in the final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Moscow.

“He (Mbappe) is one year older than me, I was 17,” Pele says making it clear that the record is still his.

“Mbappe is a very good player and I wish him all the luck in the coming years. I had a lot of luck on my side when I started playing for my country because that was very strong Brazilian team.”

The conversation quite naturally moved towards a much talked about topic in football – who is the best, and the inimitable Pele has no qualms in clearing the air.

“Pele is the best forever. There will not be one better or another like Pele because my parents can’t make another like me anymore,” he laughs.

“Every generation has seen some great players like Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona and others. Today it is Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and the young player from Brazil Neymar.”

Since the most famous Brazilian footballer hung up his boots, football has undergone a massive change. Not only the economics, but also the way it is played. While there is a long standing debate about who is the best player, there are numerous conversations about whether players of various generations could transcend across eras and still continue to be as effective.

When asked about that, Pele says, “A lot of players from my team could definitely play and do well in the modern day, but not too many would do well against those I played with.”

“The biggest difference is that today players are well protected by laws and the referees. We never had that kind of protection while playing. It was tougher,” he explains.

At 77, Pele, who has not kept too well in recent years, is understandably not as energetic as his mind would want him to be and after a day of various interviews and sessions, the great man is visibly tired. But he hides it behind few jokes and some advice for aspiring sportspersons.

“There is good, bad and more or less,” he explains.

“When you are not in the good, don’t give up because if you keep trying some day you might make it to the top. No one can be perfect, but we can always keep improving,” he signed off.
| Edited by: Arjit Dabas
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