As an ambassador after retiring with three Brazilian World Cup victories and 12 goals in 14 games, he was elegance personified
Edson Arantes do Nascimento was synonymous with the “beautiful game”. Instantly recognisable globally as Pele, he was to football what Picasso was to painting, Mozart was to music and Niagara Falls is to Nature. A thing of beauty is a joy forever. The march of time has taken away a celebrated player whose skills made his play a work of art. His joyous expressions on the field enhanced the appeal of a universal game.
There were other great players in the Brazilian team that set the gold standard between the 1958 and the 1970 World Cups. Garrincha and Didi were as gifted and yet they played in his ebullient shadow as Pele made it all look so simple and elegant, even magical in his famous bicycle kicks.
The tributes that poured in for a man, who lost his life to colon cancer after fighting the disease bravely as recently as when the Qatar World Cup was on, are a measure of what he did for football. Someone may have written it for Neymar but he said it so beautifully in describing football as just a sport before Pele transformed it into art and entertainment.
More significantly, the essence of Pele is captured in saying he gave voice to the poor even as he shaped Brazilian football in a style that brings out all the sport’s attractiveness. He went on to rub shoulders with kings and heads of state as much as he valued his association with the soccer-loving commoner, because he was one too before he rose out of poverty.
As an ambassador after retiring with three Brazilian World Cup victories and 12 goals in 14 games and culture icon, he was elegance personified, not a word or deed out of place. He brought nothing but accolades and a passionate following for the sport, including in the USA where he starred for New York Cosmos and spread the game’s beauty to the Americans. He was a rare perfect pearl to dazzle in the sporting arenas of the world.