What they said about Pele
23 Oct 2020
- FIFA spoke to former team-mates, family & friends about Pele
- We also spotlight the best quotes about him throughout history
- Presidents, poets, rock stars and artists were wowed by 'The King'
“Pele revolutionised football. Pele stopped a war. Pele united countries, united families. There was no race problem, language problem. I was born in 1970. In 2002, I became a world champion. I was captain. I had the honour of receiving the World Cup Trophy from no less than whom? Pele! Man! If I say any more I’ll cry. It’s really emotional!”
Cafu to FIFA
Malcolm Allison: “How do you spell Pele?”
Pat Crerand: “Easy: G-O-D.”
Television commentators during Mexico 1970
“The greatest goal I ever scored was a one-two with Celeste – we named him Edson Arantes do Nascimento.”
Dondinho, Pele’s father
"To watch him play was to watch the delight of a child combined with the extraordinary grace of a man in full.”
"He wasn’t even 18 years old. To do everything that he did in a World Cup, in a Final… 99 per cent of the Sweden supporters were cheering for Pele. Pele was from Saturn."
Pepe to FIFA
“Pele was one of the few who contradicted my theory: instead of 15 minutes of fame, he will have 15 centuries.”
"I told myself before the game, 'He's made of skin and bones just like everyone else'. But I was wrong.”
Tarcisio Burgnich, the Italy defender who marked Pele in the Mexico 1970 Final
"I think Pele was better than all of them. For me there’s no comparison. He didn’t have one defect. Maradona was spectacular, but he wasn’t on Pele’s level physically, he didn’t score the numbers of goals Pele did. Messi’s spectacular, but he doesn’t head the ball like Pele did, he doesn’t shoot as well with both feet, he doesn’t pull off the moves that Pele did. Cristiano Ronaldo is an exceptional player, but he doesn’t have the ability that Pele had and he doesn’t pull off the incredible passes that Pele did. If you take the qualities of Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi, put them together, then you’d have a player to compare to Pele!"
Tostao to FIFA
“I remember a scene from the 1998 World Cup Final. Suit and tie. Red carpet. There was Eusebio, [Franz] Beckenbauer, Gregory Peck, Elizabeth Taylor, [Tim] Burton, Alain Delon, Rod Stewart. Such anxiety, a packed stadium, a beautiful tribune. Then a crazy thing happened. Pele walked into the tribune and everyone stopped, stood and clapped their hands for around five minutes. Spectacular, spectacular!”
Paulo Cezar Caju to FIFA
"The moment the ball arrived at Pele's feet, football transformed into poetry."
Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italian poet
"An artist, in my eyes, is someone who can lighten up a dark room. I have never and will never find the difference between the pass from Pele to Carlos Alberto in the final of the World Cup in 1970 and the poetry of the young Rimbaud. There is in each of these human manifestations an expression of beauty which touches us and gives us a feeling of eternity."
“My name is Ronald Reagan, I’m the President of the United States of America. But you don’t need to introduce yourself because everyone knows who Pele is.”
“Pele took football to another level. Not only did he epitomise ‘The Beautiful Game’, but he also played with an effortless flair, the like of which had never been seen.”
Gianni Infantino, FIFA President
“The difficulty, the extraordinary, is not to score 1,000 goals like Pele – it’s to score one goal like Pele.”
Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Brazilian poet
“The greatest player in history was Di Stefano. I refuse to classify Pele as a player. He was above that."
“His Majesty, His Highness, ‘Le Roi’, ‘The King’. My first video, VHS that I watched was of you playing during all these World Cups, sending positive messages. Thank you for sharing the passion.”
Didier Drogba to FIFA
“Absolutely everybody wanted to shake his hand, to get a photo with him. Saying you had partied with Pele was the biggest badge of honour going.”
“For Brazilians, speaking about Pele is speaking about an entity, speaking about something far superior to everyone.”
Ronaldo to FIFA
“In some countries they wanted to touch him, in some they wanted to kiss him. In others they even kissed the ground he walked on. I thought it was beautiful, just beautiful.”
“Pele is a myth to me. A myth you can’t discuss. He managed to stop a war. Pele did things that are not human.”
Dunga to FIFA
"Pele was the only footballer who surpassed the boundaries of logic."
“When I was five or six years old, my dad told me, ‘Whatever will happen in the future, the best player of all time will always be Pele. 2006 is still one of the biggest days in my life. My birthday, when you gave me the famous shirt with the No10 and your [autograph]. I will keep it forever.”
Jurgen Klopp to FIFA
“Muhammad Ali was waving to the crowd, blowing kisses, doing the Muhammad Ali thing. As soon as he walked into the locker room and saw Pele… he was like a star-struck child.”
“You may be right. But you know nothing about football and I’ve seen Pele play.”
Vicente Feola, Brazil's coach, to the psychologist who said Pele was too immature to play at Sweden 1958
"We went up for a header together. I was much taller. When I came back down, I looked up in astonishment. Pele was still there, hanging in the air, heading that ball. It was like he could stay suspended for as long as he wanted to."
“When Pele saw Pele for the first time, it’s was unbelievable, they’d burst out crying. Guys would grab him and kiss him like, ‘I’m standing in front of a God’. It was crazy.”
“In terms of skills, he was the best ever in the world. He was simply incredible in front of the goal. He was not only the world’s best player, but also the best ambassador for football. No-one in the world has done as much for football.”
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge to FIFA
"This debate about the player of the century is absurd. There's only one possible answer: Pele. He's the greatest player of all time, and by some distance I might add.”
"There's Pele the man, and then Pele the player. And to play like Pele is to play like God."
"Pele played football for 22 years, and in that time he did more to promote world friendship and fraternity than any other ambassador anywhere.”
J.B. Pinheiro, the Brazilian ambassador to the United Nations
“I arrived hoping to stop a great man, but I went away convinced I had been undone by someone who was not born on the same planet as the rest of us.”
Costa Pereira on Benfica’s 5-2 loss to Santos in the 1962 Intercontinental Cup in Lisbon
“Pele was bigger than the Pope. Wherever he went it was like Beatlemania. Muhammad Ali, Robert Redford, Mick Jagger, Elton John… everyone was in awe of Pele.”
Steve Ross, who helped bring Pele to the Cosmos
"Even the sky was crying."
A Brazilian newspaper the day after Pele made his final career appearance in a friendly between New York Cosmos and Santos
“Everyone said he was finished. When we were world champions he walked into the dressing room and – this still gives me butterflies today – screamed three times: ‘I didn’t die. I didn’t die. I didn’t die.' He’s without doubt the greatest player in history. He gets me emotional.” (cries)
Rivellino to FIFA