Most americans have never heard of him. 'But in Moscow, Pelé is a popular hero. When he walks the streets of Stock holm, troops of children dog his heels, touching his black arms in awe. In Madrid, his name ranks with Ordoñez and Dominguin. and the next time he is in London, he will be presented to the Queen. He gets 200 letters a week from all over the world, many addressed simply "Pelé" with no country. Back home in Brazil, he is Edson Arantes do Nascimento. and ambitious politicians are forever trying to shake his hand in front of photographers. He is the biggest star of the world's big gest spectator sport soccer and he is only 22.
Day to Himself. Last week, 150.000 screaming fans jammed Rio de Janeiro's cavernous Maracana Stadium to watch Pele's team, the Santos Futebol Clube champions of Brazil, defend their national title against Rio's hard-running Botafogo club. It was no contest. The lithe, handsome Pelé had the day to himself, stealing the ball, caroming pinpoint passes off the top of his head, foot-dribbling around Botafogo defenders as if they were rooted in concrete. Santos ran up a quick three-goal lead. Then, while delirious fans shouted "Pay-lay! Pay-lay!". Pelé personally administered the crusher : he hammered in two more goals to make the final score 5-0.
Son of a smalltime pro soccer player known as Dondinho. Pelé was expelled from the fourth grade for cutting classes to play in barefoot futebol games, using a sock stuffed with rags for a ball. He stole peanuts from railroad cars, roasted them and sold them to get the money for a leather soccer ball. His first job. as a cobbler's apprentice, earned him $2 a month. At eleven. Pelé was spotted by ex-Player Waldemar de Brito. who taught him the game's intricacies, and got him a contract with Santos. The first time he played. Santos won. 6-1, and Pelé scored four goals; within a year Santos was the sensation of Brazil. The team now has won the Brazil Cup two years running, and with Pelé on the squad, Brazil's national team has won the last two world championships.
Kicks & Tugs. Nobody ever has found a way to stop Peléshort of mayhem. Desperate opponents trip him, tug at his jersey, aim vicious kicks at his shins and groin. The tactics rarely work. In a game against Argentina in 1961. Pelé was on his way to a score when a burly Argentine fullback knocked him flat. The referee signaled a foul. But in the split second it took to toot the whistle, Pelé had already leaped up and kicked the goal. The awed ref wrapped his arms around Pelé, apologized and reversed his ruling to let the goal count.
Today. Pelé's mere presence in the Santos line-up ensures a sellout crowd anywhere in the soccer world. His income from salary, bonuses and extras will come to about $40,000 this year. He can have more, any time he wants it. Last year Milan's Internazionale offered him a $60,000 bonus to sign a contract, and another Italian team. Juventus. was willing to go as high as $300,000. Spain's Real Madrid told Pelé to set his own price. Pelé turned them all down.