Special: How the King of Football got his crown

Pelé is the greatest football player in history, and the 1970 World Cup in Mexico is seen as his finest hour, when he led Brazil to its third title

Edson Arantes do Nascimento is one of the most famous individuals in the world, but he’s not known for the name on his birth certificate. People from all corners of the Earth — even if they don’t follow football or know nothing about Brazil — will instantly recognize the name Pelé. He’s the greatest player in the history of football, and the 1970 World Cup in Mexico is seen as his finest hour, when he led Brazil to its third world title.

However, what the tributes to the 1970 World Cup often overlook is the fact that just months before the tournament began, Brazilians were debating whether Pelé was even good enough to play for the national team. And Pelé himself had vowed never to play at another World Cup, believing that the tournament itself was cursed.

In today’s second part of a three-part special Explaining Brazil series on the 1970 World Cup, we’re going to look at just how the King of Football got his crown, from early retirement to undisputed soccer legend.

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On this episode:

  • Tim Vickery is a freelance English football journalist, who has lived in Brazil since 1994. He is the South American football correspondent for BBC Sport, contributing to the corporation’s output online, on TV and radio. Vickery frequently writes for World Soccer, ESPN and Sports Illustrated and he is also an analyst on SporTV’s main morning program, Redação SporTV.
  • Andrew Downie is a Scottish journalist and the author of “Doctor Socrates: Footballer, Philosopher, Legend.” His latest work, an oral history of the 1970 World Cup entitled “The Greatest Show on Earth,” is available for pre-order now. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Economist, The Guardian, GQ, Reuters, and Esquire, among others.

This special series is made by

  • Euan Marshall, script and interviews. Euan is a journalist and translator who has lived in São Paulo, Brazil since 2011. Specializing in Brazilian soccer, politics and the connection between the two, his work has been published in The Telegraph, Al Jazeera, The Independent, among others.
  • Gustavo Ribeiro, sound engineering. Gustavo is editor in chief of The Brazilian Report. He has extensive experience covering Brazilian politics. His work has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets, including Veja, Época, Folha de S.Paulo, Médiapart, and Radio France Internationale.

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