BORN: 1940

1. Pele was named after American inventor Thomas Edison -- His real name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento.

2. Was born into a poor family; as a young boy, he helped alleviate the family's financials woes by cleaning shoes at the local train station.

3. In Brazil he is fondly called ‘Pérola Negra’ or Black Pearl.

IMAGE: Pele at the warm-up match against Scotland at Hampden Park during the 1966 World Cup. Photograph: Central Press/Getty Images


League Debut: 1956

4. Pele's first football team was formed with a bunch of friends from his neighbourhood. They called themselves ‘The Shoeless Ones’. His legend began by playing football in the streets, using a stocking stuffed with rags and paper as a ball.

5. He was signed by Santos when he was 15 and scored four goals on his league debut in a match against FC Corinthians on 7 September, 1956.

6. Noted English football writer Geoffrey Green once declared: 'Di Stefano was manufactured on earth, Pele was made in heaven.'

IMAGE: Pele in 1963. Photograph: Evening Standard/Getty Images


First WC Goal: 1958

7. His first World Cup goal came against Wales in the 1958 quarter-final. Brazil won 1-0.

8 The youngest ever winner of a World Cup, he also scored twice in the 1958 final against home side Sweden.

9. In 1967, a 48-hour ceasefire was declared in Nigeria so that Federal and Rebel troops could watch Pele play on a visit to the war-torn nation.

IMAGE:Gustav VI Adolf, King of Sweden, (right) greets Brazilian footballer Pele before the 1958 World Cup final between Brazil and Sweden. Photograph: Keystone/Getty Images


New York Cosmos Debut: 1975

10. When he met Pope Paul VI, the Pontiff reportedly said, 'Don't be nervous my son. I am more nervous than you. I have been waiting to meet Pele personally for a long time.'

11. Pele made his first appearance for New York Cosmos on June 5, 1975, against Dallas Tornadoes. He scored on debut, with the game ending in a 2-2 draw.

12. Pele came out of international retirement to play one last game for Brazil on October 6, 1976, against club side Flamengo, who won the match 2-0. His last international game for Brazil, however, was a 2-2 draw with Yugoslavia on July 18, 1971.

IMAGE: Pele shoots to score. Photograph: Hulton Deutsch/ALLSPORT


Last Football Match: 1977

13. As he prepared to kick-off in a game during the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, Pele gestured to the referee that he needed to tie his laces. The cameras panned in to reveal the forward's Puma boots -- the company subsequently experienced a huge sales boost.

14. Pele is the only player to be part of three World Cup-winning teams.

15. The Brazilian government declared Pele an official national treasure in 1961 to prevent him from being transferred out of the country.

16. On October 1, 1977, he played his last game as a footballer for Santos against New York Cosmos at the Giants Stadium. He played the first half of the game for the American club, and the second half for Santos.

IMAGE: Pele in action during a training session in September 1980. Photograph: Allsport UK /Allsport


Athlete Of The Century: 1999

17. In 1981, Pele starred in Escape to Victory, a World War II drama about a team of prisoners of war who play their Nazi captors in a football match. Unsurprisingly, he played the team's star attacker, Corporal Luis Fernandez, who hailed from Trinidad and Tobago.

18. He was voted Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1999. The world's National Olympic Committees voted him as No. 1 in their top five 'Athletes of the last Century' even though he's the only one of the five who didn't take part in the Olympics.

19. In 2000, Pelé was named second in the BBC's ‘Sportsman of the Century’ award. Boxing legend Muhammad Ali beat him to the first spot.

20. In 2005, Pele was the face of an advertising campaign for the drug Viagra, and was widely credited for breaking the taboo about speaking or receiving treatment for erectile dysfunction.

IMAGE: Pele speaks at a news conference. Photograph: Lucas Landau/Reuters