Retired soccer star Pelé is widely regarded as one of the best athletes ever to play the "beautiful game." He was so popular, in fact, that in 1967, the opposing sides in the Biafran War in Nigeria declared a two-day truce so they could watch Pelé play soccer in Lagos. But how good was he, by the numbers? Pelé's stats are pretty impressive -- in a 22-year career, he scored 1,281 goals and won three World Cups. In his first full season with the Brazilian soccer club Santos, he scored 32 goals. He was only 17 years old.
Born into grinding poverty in Brazil in 1940, Pelé started out playing soccer with the kids in his neighborhood. He played for a youth league and then signed with Santos when he was 15. He scored his first goal with the team before his 16th birthday. Pelé has since parlayed his fame into support for numerous humanitarian causes. He was named FIFA Co-Player of the Century in 1999.
More about Pelé:
- Pelé announced his retirement in 1974, but then decided to play for the New York Cosmos. He played his final game -- an exhibition match against Santos -- in 1977.
- In 1978, Pelé was awarded the International Peace Award for his work with UNICEF.
- Pelé has served as Brazil's Extraordinary Minister for Sport and was appointed as a United Nations ambassador for ecology and the environment.