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    Pele turns 70


    by ODN

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    Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele, is celebrating his 70th birthday.

    The Brazilian is arguably the greatest player who has ever lived, although Diego Maradona might contest that accolade, and arguably the most famous and popular sportsman of all time after Muhammad Ali.

    A first-team regular for Santos in 1956 at 16, he established his international reputation at the 1958 World Cup when as a 17-year-old he scored a hat-trick in the semi-final and two goals in the 5-2 defeat of Sweden in the final.

    Pele won two more World Cup medals, in 1962 - though injury kept him out of the final - and in 1970. He won his 111th and final cap in 1971 and scored 97 goals for Brazil, though on a stricter international match definition his record reads 77 in 92 games.

    In all he played 1,363 first class matches, scoring 1,281 goals and later added two more in special appearances.

    One of the most enduring images is Pele standing bare-chested, exchanging shirts with England captain Bobby Moore after Brazil's 1-0 victory in Guadalajara in the group stage of the 1970 World Cup.

    And perhaps the words of Moore captured the essence of Pele more powerfully than any mere observer.

    "Pele was the most complete player I've ever seen," Moore later said.

    "He had everything. Two good feet. Magic in the air. Quick. Powerful. Could beat people with skill. Could outrun people. Only 5ft 8in tall, yet he seemed a giant of an athlete on the pitch. Perfect balance and impossible vision.

    "He was the greatest because he could do anything and everything on a football pitch. I remember Saldanha the coach being asked by a Brazilian journalist who was the best goalkeeper in his squad. He said Pele. The man could play in any position."

    He retired at the end of the 1974 season but a lucrative contract with New York Cosmos in the United States saw him return the following year. He pulled in crowds of 70,000 to the Giants Stadium, even though people barely knew what 'soccer' was before he arrived.

    When he finally hung up his boots in 1977 the NASL effectively died.

    Pele's philosophy on the game has always been simple.

    "Football is the ultimate in team sport," says Pele. "And no individual can win a game by himself. Pele is a famous name, but Pele made his goals because another player passed to him at the proper time.

    "And Brazil won games because Pele didn't try to make the goals by himself, but passed to others when required so that the goal could be scored."