1958 World Cup Final. Stockholm, Sweden. 29th June, 1958. Sweden 2 v Brazil 5. Brazil's Pele jubilant after the final in which he scored twice.

When Pelé Became a World Cup Star

In 1958, a 17-year-old Brazilian lit up soccer's biggest stage.

Edson Arantes di Nascimento — the most celebrated soccer player of all time, and arguably the greatest — was born in Brazil on October 23, 1940. He grew up poor, playing the game that later made him a hero to millions with makeshift balls made out of socks and newspaper. From 1956, when he signed his first professional contract, to 1977, when he finally retired, he scored between 757 and 1283 goals, depending on how you count them, and won three World Cups, a feat that no other player has matched. He had many nicknames, including The King of Football, but the one that really stuck was Pelé.

In the summer of 1958, as a prodigiously talented but still green teenager, Pelé flew to Sweden with the Brazilian national team for the World Cup. By the time he returned home, having helped his country to its first World Cup win, his name was known around the globe.

PHENOM Popperfoto/Getty Images PHENOM After a spectacular start with Santos, his first professional club, Pelé joined the Brazilian national team at 16. He played his first international match — and scored his first international goal — in Brazil’s 2-1 victory over Argentina on July 7, 1957. Less than a year later, he was Sweden-bound. (Pictured: Pelé, right, with Santos teammates in 1957.) CHECK UP Popperfoto/Getty Images CHECK UP After being selected for Brazil’s World Cup team in 1958, Pelé suffered a knee injury that kept him out of Brazil’s first two games of the tournament. (The Brazilians won the first, against Austria, and drew the second, against England.) But the young forward was cleared to play against the Soviet Union in the last game of the group stage. (Pictured: Medical staff examine Pelé in 1958.)

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DEBUT Popperfoto/Getty Images DEBUT On June 15, 1958, Pelé became the youngest player ever to appear in the World Cup, setting a record that stood for 24 years. (Norman Whiteside of Northern Ireland broke it by six months in 1982.) Pele’s teammate Vavá scored twice, and Brazil beat the Soviets 2-0 to advance to the knockout stage. (Pictured: Pelé, third from left, lines up with Brazil before its match against the Soviet Union.) STRATEGY Popperfoto/Getty Images STRATEGY Pelé sits with a board game. FIRST GOAL Popperfoto/Getty Images FIRST GOAL Brazil’s closest match of the knockout stage came in the quarterfinals, against Wales. The 0-0 tie was finally broken in the 66th minute, when Pelé scored the game’s only goal. Brazil advanced to the semifinals, and Pelé entered the record books again, this time as the youngest player ever to score in a World Cup. (Pictured: Pelé's teammates congratulate him in the back of the net after his game-winning goal.) SIGNING AUTOGRAPHS Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images SIGNING AUTOGRAPHS HEADS UP adoc-photos/Corbis via Getty Images HEADS UP HAT-TRICK PA Images via Getty Images HAT-TRICK On June 24, Pelé broke out for three goals — his team’s third, fourth, and fifth — in Brazil’s 5-2 victory over France. The French star Just Fontaine, who scored a record 13 goals in that year’s World Cup, later said, “When I saw Pelé play, it made me feel I should hang up my boots.” (Pictured: Pelé scores the first of his three goals.) THE VIEW FROM THE STANDS Popperfoto/Getty Images THE VIEW FROM THE STANDS Pelé scores another goal against France. MAKING HEADLINES LE TELLIER Philippe/Paris Match via Getty Images MAKING HEADLINES Pelé and his teammates check the papers in advance of their match against Sweden. KICKING BACK LE TELLIER Philippe/Paris Match via Getty Images KICKING BACK Pelé relaxes during a practice. TWO KINGS Keystone/Getty Images TWO KINGS The future King of Football meets the King of Sweden before the World Cup final. PLAYING THE SWEDES Keystone/Getty Images PLAYING THE SWEDES Brazil met host-country Sweden in the championship on June 29. The Swedes scored first, four minutes into the match, but Brazil scored twice to take a lead into halftime. (Pictured: Pelé and Swedish keeper Kalle Svensson jump for a ball in the World Cup final.) BEATING THE SWEDES Popperfoto/Getty Images BEATING THE SWEDES In the 55th minute, Pelé scored a spectacular goal that ultimately proved decisive. OVERCOME Bettmann Archive OVERCOME In the 90th minute, Pelé scored again, this time on a header — his second goal of the game and his sixth of the tournament — to extend Brazil's lead to 5-2. “Then, all of a sudden,” he recalled in his autobiography, an excerpt of which the Guardian published in 2006, “I passed out in front of the goal. Garrincha came over and picked up my legs to circulate the blood to my head. When I came to, the game was already over. I was overcome with emotion.” (Pictured: Pelé, wearing number 10, celebrates with his teammates on the field after their World Cup victory.) THE THRILL OF VICTORY Popperfoto/Getty Images THE THRILL OF VICTORY Pelé celebrates Brazil's win. TAKEOFF LE TELLIER Philippe/Paris Match via Getty Images TAKEOFF Brazil and Pelé went on to win two of the next three the World Cups. LEGEND IN THE MAKING LE TELLIER Philippe/Paris Match via Getty Images LEGEND IN THE MAKING Pelé went on to a brilliant career, achieving lasting international renown as an athlete and humanitarian: in 1994, he was appointed UNESCO Champion for Sport, and in 1999, the International Olympic Committee named him the Athlete of the Century. And it all started in Sweden. Popperfoto/Getty Images And it all started in Sweden.



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