Santos have done much to illuminate the game of football since they were founded 100 years ago today, on 14 April 1912, nurturing the talent of Pele and a host of other stars of world football and winning a long list of trophies with flair and panache. Their success and style has inspired imitators the world over, with football clubs in Mexico, Costa Rica, Guyana, Surinam, Angola and South Africa adopting their name.
FIFA.com celebrates O Peixe’s centenary by recalling ten key dates in their glorious history, dates that have made this venerable footballing academy a household name at home and abroad.
14 April 1912: The birth of an institution
Meeting at a club called Concordia, its founder members considered adopting that as a name, along with Euterpe and Brasil Atletico, before voting unanimously in favour of Santos Foot-Ball Club, reflecting its focus on football alone. Five months later, on 15 September, Santos played their first game, beating namesakes Santos Athletic Club 3-2, their very first goal scored by Arnaldo Miudo Silveira. The following year they would enter the Sao Paulo state championship.
7 September 1956: Pele makes his Santos debut
Having almost signed for Rio de Janeiro outfit Bangu instead, Edson Arantes do Nascimento arrived at Santos a shy 15-year-old, soon to be dubbed Gasolina by his team-mates, who included star performers such as Zito and Jair Rosa Pinto. Inconsolable after missing a penalty in a youth tournament, the youngster wanted to pack his bags and head back to his home town of Bauru. Eventually deciding to stay, he went on to become a star himself, quickly adopting the nickname Pele and scoring a goal on his maiden appearance for O Peixe, a 7-1 thrashing of Corinthians de Santo Andre. Within two years he had helped the club to the Sao Paulo state title and burst on to the global scene, making a memorable contribution as Brazil claimed their first world title at the 1958 FIFA World Cup Sweden™.
11 October 1962: Santos clinch their first Intercontinental Cup
Brazilian champions the two previous years, O Peixe lifted the Copa Libertadores for the first time in 1962, beating Penarol after a play-off in the final and earning the right to face Eusebio’s mighty Benfica in the Intercontinental Cup. Narrow 3-2 victors in the first leg at home, Santos turned in a magnificent performance in the second, outclassing the Lisbon giants in their own backyard to cruise to a 5-2 win, with Pele helping himself to a hat-trick. Coached by Lula, the Santos line-up that day was Gilmar, Mauro, Dalmo, Olavo, Calvet, Zito, Dorval, Lima, Coutinho, Pele and Pepe.
11 September 1963: A second consecutive Libertadores triumph
Coutinho scored two and Pele the other to give Santos a slender 3-2 lead in the first leg of the 1963 Copa Libertadores final against Boca Juniors. Exerting plenty of pressure in the return game, played in an electric atmosphere at the Bombonera, Los Xeneizes levelled the tie straight after half-time. It was then that Pele got to work. After teeing up Coutinho for the equaliser on the night, O Rei settled the tie following an assist from his strike partner, silencing the home crowd as Santos became the first and only Brazilian team to clinch the continental crown on Argentinian soil. The No10 shirt worn by Pele that night remains on display in the Boca museum. A few months later, the Brazilians set the seal on a glorious two years by retaining the Intercontinental Cup. Defeated 4-2 by AC Milan in the first leg in Italy, they then made light of the absence of O Rei to beat the Italians by the same scoreline at the Maracana and, at the same stadium two days later, edge the resulting play-off 1-0.
19 November 1969: A landmark for Pele
Having reached 999 goals, Pele had the chance to score O Milésimo (The Thousandth) in away games against Botafogo and Bahia. In the second of those matches he had a shot cleared off the line by a defender, who was barracked by his own fans for averting the history-making goal. O Rei would not be denied for long, however, and reached four figures in his next outing against Vasco da Gama, which fittingly took place at the Maracana on Brazil’s National Flag Day. With the score tied at 1-1, the great man was upended in the box by Vasco defender Fernando, the referee duly pointing to the spot. As the photographers massed behind the goal, Pele collected himself before stroking the ball to the left of Argentinian keeper Edgardo Andrada, who guessed right and got a hand to it but could not keep it out. No sooner had the ball nestled in the back of the net than the goalscorer was swamped by reporters. Overcome with emotion, he pleaded for support for the nation’s youngsters before embarking on a lap of honour.
28 June 1979: Back on the trophy trail
Santos proved there was life after O Rei by defeating Sao Paulo to win the final of the 1978 Paulistão. It was their first piece of silverware of the post-Pele era and the maiden success of a group of players known as Os Meninos da Vila (The Vila Kids, “Vila” referring to the club’s home stadium, the Vila Belmiro). That nickname has since become synonymous with the club. The team’s attacking spearhead was Juary, with the likes of midfielder Pita and the experienced Ailton Lira also starring alongside Nilton Batata and Rubens Feijao. Another state crown would come five years later, when a Serginho Chulapa goal gave a fine Santos side featuring legendary Uruguayan custodian Rodolfo Rodriguez a 1-0 victory over Corinthians on the last day of the season.
10 December 1995: A glorious comeback
Beaten 4-1 by Fluminense at the Maracana in the first leg of the 1995 Brazilian championship play-off semi-finals, Santos needed something of a miracle in the second leg at the Estadio Pacaembu in Sao Paulo if they were to advance to the final. The miracle was well and truly on, however, when club legend Giovanni struck twice in the first half to reduce the aggregate deficit to 4-3. At half-time Peixe coach Cabralzinho ordered his players to stay out on the pitch, firing up the already vociferous Santos fans even more. The stunning fightback continued after the break with Santos emerging 5-2 winners, levelling the aggregate scores and, thanks to their superior regular-season record, sending them through to the final, where they lost to Botafogo.
15 December 2002: Robinho makes his mark
The men in white were back in the Brasileirão final seven years later, where they faced local rivals Corinthians. Both games were played at the Morumbi in Sao Paulo, with Santos winning the first 2-0 and the second 3-2, the first goal in the return scored from the spot by a slender 17-year-old by the name of Robinho. What was remarkable about the penalty was the move that led to it, the teenager turning veteran defender Rogerio inside-out with a dizzying succession of stepovers before being tripped by the bewildered right-back inside the box. Santos’ title win, their first in 34 years, came as a surprise. Only scraping into the top eight on the final day of the regular season, they then beat Sao Paulo, who had finished 13 points above them in first, in the quarter-finals. Several members of this championship-winning team have gone on to make their name on the international stage, namely Robinho, the midfield trio of Diego, Elano and Renato, full-back Leo and centre-back Alex.
22 June 2011: Continental kings again
Boasting an exciting posse of precocious talents, led by Neymar, Santos took on Penarol in last year’s Libertadores final, just weeks after securing the state championship. After playing out a goalless draw in the first leg in Montevideo, O Peixe clinched their long-awaited third Libertadores title with a 2-1 win at the Pacaembu, that man Neymar and the versatile Danilo scoring the goals.
27 July 2011: Neymar goes it alone
Despite the scarcely believable 5-4 scoreline, there was more to Santos’ dramatic home defeat to Flamengo in the Brazilian league last season than meets the eye. At one stage of proceedings O Peixe led 3-0, the third of those goals proving good enough to win the FIFA Puskas Award for the best goal of 2011. Its scorer was none other than Neymar. Recalling Pele in his heyday, the quicksilver forward collected the ball wide on the left and skipped between two Fla players. Looking up to play an intuitive one-two with Borges, he then evaded the attentions of two more defenders with some fancy footwork before advancing in to the box and cutely clipping the ball over the keeper with the outside of his right foot.