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"He's paying the price for being Pelé" | Tim Vickery on Brazil legend

Ciaran Bradley
Ciaran Bradley

22:18 11 Feb 2020

While we are not close to writing obituaries for Pelé yet, his turn in health prompted a discussion with South American football writer Tim Vickery about the Brazilian's place in the football pantheon.

Pelé's son spoke movingly about his father not coping well with mobility issues, causing the Brazil legend to become more reclusive in recent months.

Undoubtedly one of the world's greatest players, he has also become a dissonant figure in the minds of many fans, with his sponsorship deals and concerning statements on issues such as World Cup bids.

 

As to his legacy, Vickery believes that Pelé will be remembered fondly.

"This man has been the most perfect PR exercise in Brazil's history, and probably that football has ever had.

"I don't think anyone did more to cement football as this global product.

"He cemented an image of Brazil in the eyes of the world, as a happy-go-lucky country because that was how he played his football.

"If you're looking for a British comparison, he is probably Ben Stokes, Lord Nelson, Winston Churchill and Gary Lineker rolled into one!"

Pelé's legacy

Vickery believes that his uncertain upbringing in the favelas of Minas Gerais, born to Fluminense's Dondinho, impacted on how he views his life.

"There is a cold, calculating side to him.

"The contrast with Garrincha is an extreme contrast; someone who couldn't cope but lived for the minute, against Pelé who was haunted by his father, an aspiring footballer who suffered a career-ending injury on his big day.

"Pelé had to become a footballer against the protests of his mother, who saw it as an insecure profession [as a result.]

"He hasn't conducted all of his affairs well over the last few years  - he hasn't always associated with the best people - but that is part of what made him Pelé. That drive - it doesn't leave you when you hang up your boots."

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