He dominated soccer for almost three decades with a passion matched only by that of his fans throughout the...
He dominated soccer for almost three decades with a passion matched only by that of his fans throughout the world.
Performance at a high level in any sport is to exceed the ordinary human scale. But Pele's performance transcended that of the ordinary star by as much as the star exceeds ordinary performance. He scored an average of a goal in every international game he played — the equivalent of a baseball player's hitting a home run in every World Series game over 15 years. Between 1956 and 1974, Pelé scored a total of 1,220 goals — not unlike hitting an average of 70 home runs every year for a decade and a half.
While he played, Brazil won the World Cup, staged quadrennially, three times in 12 years. He scored five goals in a game six times, four goals 30 times and three goals 90 times. And he did so not aloofly or disdainfully — as do many modern stars — but with an infectious joy that caused even the teams over which he triumphed to share in his pleasure, for it is no disgrace to be defeated by a phenomenon defying emulation.