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OPINION By Christina Tsetsakoy 

  Brazil’s notorious forward Pelé died on December 29, 2022, but the impact he left on soccer will live on forever. 

  On his first appearance on the national stage in the 1958 World Cup, Pelé scored six goals and helped bring the team to victory. Pele was only 17 at the time, but he had joined professional soccer at the age of 15. When I first read about Pele’s career, especially his success at such a young age, I was amazed. It made me think of the potential I have if I am passionate about something. 

  Even before his appearance at the World Cup, Pelé received contract offers from globally renowned teams, such as Real Madrid, Juventus, Manchester United and many more. All of his potential contracts were discarded and he never signed with any other teams. In accordance with Santos FC, the Brazilian president declared Pelé a national treasure, prohibiting him from playing for any teams that were outside of the country. I can’t even picture how Pelé must have felt during that time. He was at the prime of his life and had the world in his reach. However, at the same time, he faced so much criticism from all over the world. 

  The main reason I love Pelé so much is because, even through the toughest of times, he still managed to become one of the best players in history. However, no matter how amazing of a career he had, people still compare him to Lionel Messi.

  Many critics argue that because Pelé never won a Champions League trophy, which is the European title, he couldn’t be considered the greatest player of all time. Something that these critics miss, however, are the different circumstances of these two players. They played soccer during two very different time periods. Although Messi also faced criticism when he first started playing, Pelé faced extreme racism and also did not have the ability to play in Europe.

  Aside from the awards he has won, Pelé changed the meaning of soccer. Being a black soccer player in the 1950s was not easy, but Pelé still managed to become one of the best players in history. Pelé was mocked throughout the majority of his career, especially for the way he dribbled the ball, but now he is praised for it. 

  As a black man in the 1950s, he experienced extreme racism, which is why he had to come up with different ways to maintain control of the ball. He was given a hard time on the field and was unable to keep control of the ball for long periods of time because white players were always targeting him. In response, Pelé brought new agility to dribbling a ball. It looked like he was dancing with the ball. He was able to keep it out of the opposing teams’ reach and look majestic while doing it.