Mondays With Murray: The One and Only

The 2022 FIFA World Cup is scheduled to take place in Qatar, Nov. 20 through Dec. 18. This will be the first World Cup to be held in the Arab world, and the second held entirely in Asia, after the 2002 tournament in South Korea and Japan. In addition, the tournament is scheduled to be the last with a 32-team field; it is to increase to 48 teams for the 2026 tournament in the United States, Mexico and Canada. 

 Pelé Pelé, born Edson Arantes do Nascimento on Oct. 23, 1940 in Três Corações, Brazil, is likely the most famous and possibly the best paid athlete in the world. Pelé was part of Brazilian national teams that won three World Cup championships — 1958, 1962 and 1970.

Today we bring you Jim Murray on the legendary Pelé, the’Black Pearl of the Brazilian Planalto.’ 






The One and Only

They may be the best-known four letters in all sport. P-E-L-E.

Certainly, R-U-T-H was never known in places where P-E-L-E is. A-L-I may mondaysmurray2give him a run for it but there are parts of the world where, if the two of them were together on a platform, the audience would wonder “Who’s up on that platform with Pele.”

They used to scribble in the high school annuals or class autograph books “Fate tried to conceal him by naming him ‘Smith.’ ” Fate tried to conceal Pele by naming him “Edson Arantes do Nascimento.” But the first time they saw him kick a soccer football, he was “Pele,” one of the most felicitous fittings of word to deed in the annals of athletics.

“Pele” doesn’t mean anything in Brazil. Or, rather, it means everything. It means only the man who owns it, the world’s greatest soccer player, maybe the world’s greatest athlete.

Kings’ hands trembled when they shook hands with him. The Pope was awed. The Shah of Iran waited three hours in the rain just to shake his hand. He is an honorary citizen of the world. Wars have been halted when he came to town. Chinese border guards put down their rifles when he passed through.


More than 140 countries worldwide take part in the World Cup of soccer. Only 16 get to the finals. Which are held every four years. Pele’s teams have won three World Cups, and astonishing performance. Pele is the only man in the world to play on three world championship teams in his career.

He has scored almost 1,300 goals, almost three times as many as anyone else who ever played the game. They knighted a guy in England once for reaching the incredible plateau of 500 goals. Pele scored virtually a goal a game through his career. He scored his first on Sept. 7, 1956. He may score one last time on the night before his funeral. Pele will die in front of a net — of very old age.

Because a goal in club soccer is like a home run in major league baseball, Pele’s goal-a-game pace, translated to more-understandable (to Americans) sports, boggles the imagination. Babe Ruth would have had to hit 2,503 home runs instead of the 714 he did. Henry Aaron would have had to hit 3,298 instead of 755.


You would think from the foregoing that Edson Arantes do Nascimento would be built along the general lines of Godzilla or the-creature-that-ate-Topeka, that he would have three or four eyes, one more leg than anyone else and would be able to jump 80 feet straight up in the air.

Actually, he’s a little nearsighted. He’s barely 5-9. He weighs 160 pounds. To be sure, he can see 360-degrees around him, he has Olympic sprinter speed. He can kick a ball through a designated window of a moving train from 90 yards, he can curve it around a goaltender like Koufax could throw it around a bat. He could kill a squirrel with a football from 60 yards and he could dribble a cannonball through the whole West German team — or army — from goal-to-goal in 15 seconds.

He pioneered the so-called “bicycle kick” in which the player turns his back to the direction he’s going to shoot the ball, then levitates with the ball on his instep until he’s lying parallel to the ground like a body on wires in a magic act — and then sends the ball sizzling accurately back over his head into a net or at a teammate.

His ball travels just slow enough not to ignite in flight.

Pele, at 38, has been a man with-a-mission. His job is to take the world’s most popular outdoor sport and make it popular in the one land that had resisted it. It was a little as if they asked Babe Ruth to spend his declining years popularizing baseball in Tibet but, as usual, Pele delivered the ball safely to the net. Sellout crowds came out to see this “Black Pearl of the Brazilian Planalto” as if he were a living King Tut exhibition.

Pele doesn’t need soccer, soccer needs him. He is one of the richest men in Brazil, he’s on more TV commercials than Ford cars. He is Madison Avenue’s dream, good-natured, personable, dependable, doesn’t drink or smoke, is happily married, has no interest in Disco 54, is a practicing Catholic. He smiles all the damn time.

In Brazil, he ranks just below coffee as a natural resource. He’s the only guy in the country with a statue without a gun in his hand or a ball under him instead of a horse.

He is in town to appear when the New York Cosmos play at the Rose Bowl today against the L.A. Aztecs and to promote his biography, “Pele, My Life and The Beautiful Game” with Robert L. Fish.

He won’t play, only appear. But not going to see Pele is like not getting up to see a solar eclipse, pulling the shades going past Niagara Falls, not looking up when a great man passes, or not going to Paris on a trip through Europe. It’s your loss. You’re going to hate yourself someday. Because there’s nothing like him on the horizon.

Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

Jim Murray Memorial Foundation P.O. Box 661532, Arcadia, CA 91066


The Jim Murray Memorial Foundation’s mission is to establish a permanent legacy to Jim Murray. The JMMF has joined forces with the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. The National Baseball Hall of Fame and MLB share significant and timeless overlapping history with Jim Murray. Jim Murray wrote more columns on baseball than he wrote on any other sport, bringing baseball’s history and legends to life through sports journalism.

The JMMF will continue its “Mondays with Murray” posts indefinitely with a link to the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame website supporting its new Jim Murray initiative. The JMMF will dissolve its 501(c)(3) status and distribute its remaining financial assets to the Hall of Fame.

Baseball Hall of Fame non-profit 501(c)(3) #15-0572877

Preserving History. Honoring Excellence. Connecting Generations.|


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