Pele’s assistant retires after 53 years meeting all kinds of figures in the world

José Fornos Rodrigues has rubbed shoulders with many of the world’s most popular and powerful figures over the last five decades. However, he himself does not appear in many photos.

In a calm voice, he says he has met figures like supermodel Gisele Bundchen, soccer star Kylian Mbappé and Russian President Vladimir Putin, but only because he had a very famous friend who hired him as his assistant.

Better known as Pepito Fornos, José retired this month as Pelé’s right-hand man.

Since the legendary former soccer player’s activities were drastically reduced during his treatment for colon cancer, his veteran assistant felt that it was time for a professional separation, to return to a rural area near Sao Paulo and to maintain only a friendly relationship with Edson Arantes Don Nascimento.

Pelé, 81, confirmed the retirement of Fornos, 79, making a “My great friend Pepito. You always told me that you had white hair because of me. So, I hope that now he regains his natural color,” Pele wrote on Instagram. “I will continue working normally, because I still have a few more dreams to fulfill and I intend to play a few more games. Very grateful for everything, and take advantage of your retirement.

Fornos met Pelé in the early 1960s. In 1969, the relationship grew closer during a trip to Milan, after Fornos secured a sponsorship from Varig airlines for Santos, the club where the star grew up.

It was not a minor agreement, given that the Brazilian team toured the world for months in order to pay the salary of its great figure.

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Pelé liked Fornos’ business style, with his perfectly tailored suits and impeccably coiffed dark hair. He then considered it a good idea to start taking him to events with his sponsors.

In 1971, the global icon, a three-time World Cup champion, asked Fornos, then in charge of airline sales, to work for him, with a slight increase in pay.

At the time, the most famous athlete on the planet was earning $1.5 million a year, split roughly evenly between football and marketing deals. The partnership had a break of only one year, when Fornos got married and left the town of Santos.

The marriage did not last, and Fornos returned to work for Pelé.

“Pelé and I are the same people from those days,” Fornos said in a rare telephone interview with The Associated Press. “I always knew my place. He was secretive, backstage.”

a week, when he left a São Paulo hospital after his most recent treatment.


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