When I began playing soccer as a child in the township, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, also known as Pelé, was the greatest player ever.

He was named Edson after the famous American inventor, Thomas Edison. I have never seen him actively play. He played his last game on October 1, 1977.

Pele, born into poverty, continues to inspire young players from disadvantaged backgrounds to believe that they can use soccer to escape poverty.

My hometown is Mamelodi, home of the legendary Mamelodi Sundowns soccer club. South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns are also popularly known as The Brazilians. So you can imagine, then, how famous Pele was in my hometown. I grew up at a time when every soccer-playing child in my community aspired to be Pele.

Many people can write much better about the legacy that is Pele. I’m only familiar with a handful of his recorded games. Pele is the only player in history to win three FIFA World Cups. At the age of 17, Pele became the youngest World Cup champion ever.

Pelé’s ambition of becoming a soccer superstar began to come true when, at age 15, he joined a prominent soccer team in Santos, Brazil. The rest is history; he scored 1,281 goals in 1,363 games and is best known for his tremendous shooting, dribbling ability, and an iconic bicycle kick.

But beyond statistics and record-breaking, Pele was a fantastic sports ambassador, not just for soccer. He was the symbol of sport played with passion, gusto and a smile. 

Among the many insights from Pele’s life, one that particularly resonated with me was something he said:

“I don’t believe there is such a thing as a ‘born’ soccer player. Perhaps you are born with certain skills and talents, but quite frankly it seems impossible to me that one is actually born to be an ace soccer player”.

Talent is not everything. Success is no accident, it is a combination of hard work, perseverance, study, sacrifice, and most importantly, a passion for what you are doing or learning to do.

I believe that exceptional leaders and entrepreneurs are made. If you have talent, that’s fantastic, but it alone is not enough.

When Brazil is mentioned, the first name that comes to the minds of football fans throughout the world is Pele… the one and only.

Pele is a reminder that if you don’t require the journey to be easy or comfortable or safe, you can change the world.

Pele did work that mattered, he lived a life that mattered and he mattered.

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