Pelé Turns 80: Celebrating the Birth of a King

Published Oct 23, 2020

80 years ago a king was born. In the city of Três Corações, beside the Rio Verde in southeastern Brazil, Dona Celesete Arantes gave birth to the son of footballer Dondinho on October 23, 1940. Naming him after the American inventer, Thomas Edison, Edson Arantes do Nascimento would become one of the world’s most celebrated figures, known by the name, Pelé.

Making his professional debut with Santos at the age of 15, by the time he reached the age of 30, he had scored over a thousand goals and won the FIFA World Cup three times. Coming out of retirement to join the New York Cosmos, he scored on his debut – a friendly match against the Dallas Tornado on June 15, 1975.

During three seasons with the Cosmos, Pelé popularized the sport of soccer in the United States, literally transforming the domestic landscape. Where once there had been baseball diamonds, now there were also soccer pitches. The Cosmos and their King not only started a sporting revolution in the States, they also traveled the world to spread the Gospel of the Beautiful Game, representing the world’s most global city at the global game, leaving a lasting sporting legacy in India, China, and Japan, where their visits remain a cherished part of local sporting lore.

His last game as a professional footballer was played on October 1, 1977, before a sold out Giants Stadium and a global television audience, playing (and scoring) in the first half for the Cosmos and switching sides to play for the only other club he had ever represented, Santos, for the second half. He ended his three seasons with the Cosmos having scored 64 goals in 106 games, earning one league title, retiring a champion. At that match he asked the crowd to repeat one word, three times. Cosmos Country and viewers worldwide joined the man born at Three Hearts in saying: “Love! Love! Love!”

This legacy of love is needed now more than ever. The Pelé Foundation was launched in 2018 to foster that legacy, dedicated to empowering children with charitable efforts that combat poverty with education. #Pelegacy is a movement to celebrate this 80th anniversary of his birth through the donation of jerseys (inspired by the swap with Bobby Moore in Mexico) for an auction that will raise funds and awareness for the Foundation’s efforts to provide COVID-19 relief for Brazil. The club has sent an autographed jersey to the #PelegacyJerseyExchange to support these efforts.

His name is synonymous with sporting artistry and genius. The lasting impact of his time with the Cosmos is inestimable. Cosmos fans cherish the memories of the time the Greatest Player of All Time played for our beloved club, our sense of history a source of pride that informs our ambitions for the future. And so from everyone in Cosmos Country, we join together with lovers of the Beautiful Game worldwide to celebrate our King, sending love and best wishes to Pelé on his 80th birthday. Once again: “Love! Love! Love!”

The man who pursued Pelé around the globe for years to secure his services for the Cosmos, founding General Manager, Clive Toye, sends his birthday wishes.


The Captain of the team that saw the King retire as a champion, Werner Roth, also sends Pelé a birthday greeting.