Paradoxically, it is still black and white images that best capture all the light and brilliance given to football by this genius.

On June 29, 1958, the world discovered this 17-year-old young man who scored two goals in the World Cup final against Sweden, at home in Solna, to give Brazil the supreme title (5-2).

The modernity of this player, in his dribbling, his feints, his unbalanced runs, his speed, his technique, stand out in a stadium where the spectators still wear raincoats, bow ties and pipes for the men.

As brilliant with both feet, scoring with a header like no one at the time despite his modest size, he is the one who allowed Brazilian "futbol" to become the "samba football" dreamed of and celebrated around the world.

Pelé © / AFP

Actor, singer and minister

This number 10 was only 1.72m tall but he left giant footprints in the history of football.

File photo of Pelé taken on June 1, 1962 in Vina del Mar, Chile, before a World Cup quarter-final between Brazil and England © STAFF / AFP / Archives

He is the only player to have won three World Cups, in 1958 (where he was only 17, making him the youngest player to win this title), 1962 and 1970.

According to an unofficial ranking, he is still the only player to have scored a whopping 1,281 goals in 1,363 matches for Santos (1956-74), his club in Brazil, "Seleçao" and Cosmos (1975-77). ).

There again, Pelé was a precursor, joining this New York club that today we would call "bling bling", a fascinating entity of stars at the end of their careers who rubbed shoulders in the evenings of the "Big Apple" with figures from the "show biz".

Before he decided on the time of his retirement, the defenders quickly made up their minds and everything was good to stop him from the time of his glory, like the dirtiest fouls.

The aggressions of the Bulgarian Zhechev and the Portuguese Morais spoil his 1966 World Cup.

Archive photo of Pelé taken during a friendly match organized on October 31, 1990 to celebrate his fiftieth birthday in Milan © Gerard MALIE / AFP/Archives

Off the field, this man who kept a feline physique even when the temples of his close-cropped hair turned gray, also had a full life.

These include seven recognized children, including five from two marriages, film roles (including a football war film alongside Sylvester Stallone, under the direction of John Huston), recorded songs and even a ministerial post in Brazil.

How to sum up his trajectory when those of his balloons have discouraged so many goalkeepers?

No heir to his height

The story of his life is one that biographers love.

Born on October 23, 1940 into a poor family in Tres Coraçoes ("Three Hearts"), a small town in the state of Minas Gerais (southeast), this grandson of slaves left to live with his parents in the interior. from the state of Sao Paulo, in Bauru, where he sells peanuts in the streets.

Pelé with Argentinian football legend Diego Maradona, on June 9, 2016 in Paris, during a meeting on the sidelines of the Euro in France © PATRICK KOVARIK / AFP/Archives

At the age of three, then nicknamed "Dico", he encouraged a friend of his father (an amateur footballer), a certain Bilé (who according to legend played goalkeeper) by scratching his name, "Pilé".

The nickname will stay with him.

At 15, he joined Santos (Sao Paulo) where he played for almost twenty years until his transfer to Cosmos for 7 million dollars, a record at the time.

But the legend of the one whom his photogeny had transformed into a "publicity son" and an ambassador for humanitarian operations or charitable purposes under the aegis of Unicef ​​or UNESCO is not without stain.

He had to leave his post as Minister of Sports (1994-1998) after a corruption scandal.

This is obviously not what the country of football king will retain of its absolute monarch, the one who won 45 titles with Santos.

Since he hung up his boots, Brazil are still looking for his successor to the position of number 10. Because from Zico to Socrates, via Ronaldo, Romario, Kaka, Ronaldinho or Neymar, no one has dethroned "O Rei".

© 2022 AFP