Miracle man

Pelé went from poverty to football superstardom :TheEconomist

As a forward he was not that tall, but he was strong, fast and had thighs as thick as his waist. He could read the game like a book, and control the ball as if it was drawn to him like a magnet. He could also tell exactly where he was needed, and when, and what the opposition might have in mind to try to block him. All this seemed to make him a natural captain, but he never wanted that role officially.

Dribbling was his great skill, flummoxing defenders with feints and sudden stops and starts. He could shoot for goal powerfully with either foot and despite his height, or lack of it, was a spring-heeled header of the ball. He jumped so easily over Tarcisio Burgnich, the Italian marking him in the 1970 World Cup final, that Burgnich doubted he was flesh and bone at all. Then he scored the first goal. He knew he was the best player in that tournament and, with the next World Cup four years away, he declared he wouldn’t play any more.

The nickname “Pelé”, a classmate’s tease, annoyed him at first (“Edson” was more serious, after Thomas Edison), but he liked it better when he learnt it meant “miracle” in Hebrew.

Memories 1970, Mexico city, gold shirts, all from the comfort of home.

More magic from the Economist’s obituary writer.