May Pelé sleep in peace, and may Edson be forgotten

I remember that, as a young reporter, I was given a strange mission: to go to a Santos de Pelé game and watch the game but without seeing it.

The mission was to tell what life was like for those who lived in the stadium, and in a game with Pelé, but did not watch the game.

The ticket seller, the elevator operator, the guy who sold chips, soft drinks and beers in the stands, the security men and the goalkeepers, in short, those who were there but weren’t there.

I don’t remember who the opponent was – we’re talking about 1968, maybe 1969 – but I perfectly remember that I was talking to the elevator operator when we heard, behind closed doors, a distant shouting, and he told me: “Pelé’s goal”.

Before I went to confer, I asked how he knew. The response was withering: “Only when he scores a great goal do we hear the screaming here, inside the elevator.”

I am from the generation that saw Pelé emerge and grow. I was nine years old when my parents moved with the family to Europe, and on the flight was the Brazilian National Team that would qualify for the 1958 World Cup.

I remember a skinny little black boy, with a bright smile, who, seeing that I was looking at him precisely because he was so young and skinny among so many big men, looked at my mother and asked: “What is his name? My name is Pelé.” .

It was the only time we saw each other.

Live, I have seen Pelé play a few times, and that since I was a child I have been an irremediable soccer fan. On TV, I’ve seen it as many times as I could. I never saw him play twice in the same way. He was an inventor.

On the pitch, Pelé has been – for my generation and all those that came after: my son Felipe, for example, has only seen recordings of his matches – a unique kind of god.

I’ve never seen anything like it before, never seen anything like it after. Let all the names parade me, and nothing at all.

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In my opinion, Pelé has been on the pitch like a mix of Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró in the paint. Like Pelé on the court, they divided art in two, they changed the way of seeing the world.

I don’t remember any other image of absolute beauty that ended in failure: Pelé’s frustrated play against the Uruguayan goalkeeper in the 1970 World Cup.

Divine play, absolute, and the ball went out, millimeters from the goal. At the age of 22 at the time, it became clear to me and forever that a failure could have light and dignity. Supreme dignity.

I reiterate: in football Pelé was a pure and unique light.

It has been, in my opinion, the best of the best of all time.

However, and as unfortunately often happens, there was a bottomless abyss between the public figure and the citizen.

Because if Pelé has been a unique star, the citizen Edson Arantes do Nascimento has been a citizen with abominable attitudes.

His first daughter, from a marriage to a light-skinned woman, was recorded as “white” on the birth certificate. Another daughter watched as Pelé refused to accept paternity for her. Legal examinations proved that yes, she was, but she died before seeing the results.

To his two children, grandsons of Pelé, the god of the ball that did not swim, floated in money, he gave a monthly pension of about 650 dollars. That: 325 for each grandchild.

I read, among many texts on Pelé’s death, one that was especially accurate, written by the more than renowned Brazilian sports journalist, Juca Kfouri.

He said that Pelé, immortal, has not died.

That the person who died was Edson Arantes do Nascimento.

So be it.

Let no one mix the image and memory of a degraded citizen with the greatest god, the greatest genius, the greatest of the greatest, the most beloved sport on the planet, soccer.

May Pele rest in peace. And that Edson Arantes is forgotten.

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