Edson Arantes do Nascimento, or as he’s better known: Pelé, is still undeniably regarded as the greatest athlete to ever play the Beautiful Game. His outstanding ball control, superb tactical ability, and unbelievable runs through entire teams were admired in both Brazil and the United States on the pro level. But it was when he donned the famous yellow kit, and showcased his ethereal talents at the World Cup, that he became the stuff of legends.
Pelé played in four World Cups, scored 12 tournament goals, and is still the only player to lift the championship trophy three times. But it was on June 19, 1958 that the 17-year-old kid announced his arrival with his first World Cup goal – a perfectly-placed slow-roller past the Welsh goalie that gave Brazil a birth into the semis. After realizing what he’d done, Pelé chased the ball into the net and hugged it as photographers surrounded him. He followed that performance with a second-half hat trick against France, and then led his nation to its first ever World Cup with two more scores in a 5-2 victory over Sweden.
It’s been 56 years since Pelé first graced the World Cup pitch, and in that time we’ve seen similar one-namers like Beckenbauer, Maradona, Ronaldo, Messi, and Neymar follow his steps. But it’s important to remember how it started, and appreciate all Pelé has given to the Beautiful Game while you watch this year’s tournament in Brazil.