Pele is the most overrated footballer in history. No other player has ever been surrounded by such an aura of myth and mystique. His legend is so puissant that his very name is a universal household metaphor for the apogee of soccer excellence. Every superstar player is compared against Pele – with such comparisons inevitablyresulting in the verdict that Pele remains “the greatest player ever”.
Pele, of course, just happens to be black – a fact which conveniently fits with the media’s unstinting propagation of the viciously anti-White meme of black physical superiority. For according to the Negro-enamoured Fourth Estate the “greatest ever boxer” is Cassius Clay (a.k.a Muhammad Ali), the “greatest ever basketball player” is Michael Jordan, the “greatest ever all round athletes” are Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis – for that matter, even the “greatest ever guitarist” is supposedly Jimi Hendrix. The Negro-Asian hybrid known as Tiger Woods (whose real given name, by the way, is the far less-heroic Eldrick) is touted as the“greatest ever golfer”, while Serena Williams has been increasingly dubbed the “greatest ever female tennis player”.
Therefore, a mildly suspicious fellow with even half a brain may pose the following question: is Pele really the“greatest ever football player” or is he simply yet another black sports person hyped to the heavens by the openly anti-White media? Such an intriguing question naturally prompts a bit of investigation…
Without doubt, Pele’s greatest fan is Pele himself. He is easily the most narcissistic sportsperson on the planet, working harder to cultivate and preserve his own myth than all of the world’s journalists combined – which is quite a remarkable feat in itself. Throughout endless displays of jaw-dropping hubris, Pele constantly refers to himself in the third person as if he was some sort of deity, relentlessly praising himself while at the same time dismissively belittling the achievements of every other major player, including – just for good measure– his old teammates. Humility is definitely not among his character traits but as he is black that is hardly a surprise – and therefore neither is the media’s willingness to indulge such a braggart without labelling him as such. Now, if a White sportsman engaged in such shameless self-aggrandisement the reaction, of course, would be quite different…
The public is led to believe that Pele’s status as ”the greatest ever player” can actually be quantified – and thus “proven” – because:
(a) he is the only player who has “won” three World Cups, and
(b) he possesses an unmatched, literally superhuman goal scoring record.
So, let’shave a closer look at this “empirical evidence” shall we?
For a start,the much-vaunted “statistic” of Pele’s three World Cup wins is a blatant sham. Why? Because he was awarded a winner’s medal for the 1962 tournament despite only playing in the first two group games, sustaining an injury in the second match against Czechoslovakia which put him out for the rest of the competition. That Brazil won the tournament without him proves just how “indispensable” the “world’s greatest ever player” was. One can also safely say that Brazil would have won the 1970 World Cup without the services of the so-called “King” as that particular Brazilian team is often lauded as being the finest in the history of the game.
On the other hand, it is generally openly acknowledged that had Diego Maradona not featured in Argentina’s World Cup team of 1986 there is absolutely no way that such an average side would have won the tournament. However,Maradona’s startlingly brilliant play in that World Cup shall forever be overshadowed by his calculated cheating in the quarter final against England: his infamous “Hand of God” goal, when he “opened the scoring” by deliberately punching the ball into the back of the net.
Speaking of World Cups, here is something else to ponder. What if Pele – like George Best(who happens to be your humble correspondent’s “pick” as the greatest player of all time) – had been born in Northern Ireland, a nation whose World Cup qualification path is far more difficult than that of Brazil as it involves matches against European opposition and whose population during the 1960s and early 1970s was about 1.5 million? How many World Cup finals tournaments would Pele have won or, more to the point, even participated in? The answer, of course, is “none”.
Another thing to question is Pele’s importance to Santos, the Brazilian club side with whom he played for his entire career before moving to New York Cosmos. He made his official debut in 1957, yet Santos had just won the Campeonato Paulista (Sao Paulo State Championship – Brazil lacked a true national championshiptournament until 1971) in 1955 and 1956. Pele therefore wasn’t necessarily some sort of miraculous individual catalyst for his club’s series of successes in the late 1950s and 1960s.
The heavily-reinforced foundation of the Pele myth is his apparently superhuman goal scoring prowess,with his total haul often magically calculated at 1280 goals. However, as with his three World Cup wins, this is a meticulously constructed mirage, for any version of the record popularly attributed to Pele includes goals in various exhibition matches, unofficial matches, practice matches and even in matches which he played during his national service!
Let’s separate the wheat of the facts from chaff of the propaganda. Pele scored 643goals in 656 official matches for Santos. This would be the standard total normally attributed to a player. Yet in Pele’s case, the “establishment” has engaged in some deft statistical legerdemain by choosing to include the 390 goals he scored in 464 of those sundry “unofficial matches”, which blows his total out to a far more Herculean 1033 goals in 1120 games.
In our examination of his scoring record we must also consider the calibre of the opposition Pele faced, as 470 of his 643 “official” goals were scored in the Campeonato Paulista – that is, against clubs from the state of Sao Paulo and not against the best teams from the whole of Brazil. That’s yet another not-so-little detail that the encomiasts omit from their glittering “statistics-laden” accounts. Pele also scored 37 official goals for New York Cosmos but the NASL was an exceedingly weak competition peppered with a few former superstar imports well past their prime enjoying a lucrative semi-retirement as “marquee”players.
The very fact that such deliberately misleading figures are eternally quoted as“quantitative” proof of his superiority over all other players provides laughably transparent evidence of the methodical elevation of the black Pele as the iconic “peerless” footballer whose “feats” shall forever remain unsurpassed.This virtual apotheosis ensures that in the minds of White fans yet another black sits atop the pinnacle of yet another sport, “confirming” the mantra of black physical superiority.
When inevitably comparing Pele favourably against the part-mestizo Diego Maradona and, latterly, the White Lionel Messi, (both of whom are vastly superior players) the average statistics obsessed pro-black commentator or pundit also conveniently omits to mention the great gulf in the philosophical approach to the game between the “Age of Pele” (the tail end of the 1950s through to the early 1970s) and later decades, with the important associated differences in tactics and formations.
Pele’scareer unfolded in an era when football was an open sport with an emphasis on attacking play and scoring goals (with the notable exception of Helenio Herrera’s ultra-defensive Catenaccio system famously employed at Internazionale). This was a time when the penalty shootout did not exist, and drawn matches in knockout tournaments were simply replayed, thus depriving weaker teams of the incentive to “play for a draw and the 50/50 chance shootout”.
By the time Maradona moved to Barcelona in 1982, the attacking philosophies of earlier decades were being replaced by increasingly defensive attitudes and tactics, which made scoring goals far more difficult than in the free-flowing matches of the 1950s and 1960s. When Messi made his senior debut for Barcelona in 2004, football had finally completed its gradual evolution into a gargantuan money-making business in which clubs are corporations listed on the stock exchange. In stark contrast to the once-prevalent desire to win by as many goals as possible, the “modern”approach to the game is now governed by a morbid fear of losing, for defeat on the field is generally equated with a loss of income.
Obviously, the safest way to avoid defeat is to prevent the opposition from scoring, so the world in which Messi plies his trade is one in which strong defence forms the central tactical tenet of the overwhelming majority of teams, not just a select few like Herrera’s “classic” Internazionale. It is therefore disingenuous for anyone to suggest that Pele could have replicated his scoring “feats” – no matter how “creative” their calculation – in the era of Maradona, let alone the current era of Messi. On the other hand, one can only imagine how much more impressive both Argentines’ goal tallies would be had they played in Pele’sdays of all-out attacking football…
As the media is so fond of pointing out everything Pele “achieved”, let’s mention something which he did not do. Unlike all of theother most famous names in the game – Alfredo Di Stefano, George Best, Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi – Pele never played club football in Europe. Consequently, he did not face the quality of opposition, particularly defences, that the aforementioned players contended against.
Pele won two Copa Libertadores (the South American equivalent of the European Cup /Champions League) with Santos (1962, 1963). Domestically, he won ten Campeonato Paulistas (Sao Paulo state championships), five Taca Brasils and one Taca de Prata. The latter two competitions served as de facto Brazilian national championships, so Pele can be credited with winning six “Brazilian championships”. Let’s compare these honours with the records of the other big names.
Alfredo DiStefano moved to Real Madrid in 1953 at the age of 27 following a glittering career in Argentina and Colombia. He won five European Cups in succession and scored a hat-trick in the famous 7-3 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in the 1960 final which fell just before his thirty-fourth birthday. Di Stefano also won eight La Liga championships with Real Madrid in addition to one Copa Del Rey,scoring 307 goals in 396 official matches.
Di Stefano never appeared in a World Cup because he was the victim of a series of highly unfortunate circumstances. The Second World War meant that the first World Cup which took place during his senior career was held in 1950, but Argentina withdrew from the competition due to a dispute with the Brazilian Football Association and did not even enter the 1954 qualification tournament. By the time of the 1958 World Cup (Pele’s first), Di Stefano had acquired Spanish citizenship and scored two goals in four qualification matches for his adopted country – but Spain failed to progress to the finals.
Di Stefano was in the Spanish side which qualified for the 1962 finals but had to pull out just before the tournament due to injury and promptly retired from international football. It is important to note that he was thirty-six years old at the time and still a key superstar player.At the same age, Pele was in semi-retirement at New York Cosmos, having made his final appearance for Brazil when he was thirty.
“If I’d been born ugly, you would never have heard of Pele” These were the words of George Best referring to his playboy image and the consequent destructive lure of a lifestyle of alcohol-fuelled excesses which effectively ended his career by the age of 27. He was a testament to the fact that a player doesn’t have to win a truckload of honours or even appear in a World Cup to be an all-time great. In terms of ability, Best was astonishing – just as astonishing, however, was his fall from the top.
Best won two First Division (i.e. Premier League-equivalent) championships with Manchester United in 1965 and 1967, plus the European Cup in 1968, before gradually succumbing to the temptations which accompanied his then-unprecedented pop-culture fame.Drink, glamorous women, gambling and various nightclub ventures proved irresistible distractions which eventually dominated his life. He quit ManchesterUnited twice, finally retiring in 1974 before returning to football on and off to play for several clubs, trading on his crowd-pulling name.
Johan Cruyff won eight Eredivisie championships, five Dutch Cups and three successive European Cups (1971, 1972, 1973) with Ajax Amsterdam. With Barcelona, he claimed one La Liga championship and one Copa Del Rey. At the age of 37 Cruyff completed the Eredivisie and Dutch Cup double with Feyenoord.
Cruyff played in only one World Cup finals tournament, when the Netherlands finished as runners up to hosts West Germany in 1974. Having participated in the qualification matches for the 1978 World Cup, Cruyff retired from international football in 1977. At the time, he cited ideological opposition to Jorge Videla’s dictatorship as the reason for refusing to travel to Argentina. Thirty years later, however, Cruyff revealed that his family was involved in a kidnap attempt which prompted his decision, stating that he was not mentally focussed to play.
Diego Maradona won the Copa Del Rey with Barcelona in 1983. The following season, he moved to Napoli where he claimed two Series A titles (1987, 1990), one Coppa Italia (1987) and one UEFA Cup (1989). Maradona’s achievements in Italy are all the more remarkable as Napoli had never before won an Italian championship, their only previous honours being two Coppa Italias (1962, 1976). As with Argentina’s 1986 World Cup victory, it is usually acknowledged that Napoli would not have won these trophies without Maradona, who was the talismanic creative heart of both his national and club teams.
At the age of 24, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi has already won five La Liga championships, one Copa Del Rey, and three Champions League trophies. If we are to count the Champions League and Copa Libertadores as equivalent continental club championships (although the depth of competition has always made the European version more difficult to win), Messi has therefore already exceeded Pele’s total. If Barcelona wins the present edition – which is currently at the quarter finals stage – Messi shall double Pele’s career aggregate of two continental club championships. With five Spanish championships to his name, Messi is only one national championship behind Pele (that’s if we generously acknowledge the Taca Brasil and Taca dePrata as de facto Brazilian championships).
Messi has not yet won a World Cup – but he shall only turn 25 in June which means that barring injury he will play in at least two more finals tournaments and will also doubtlessly win several additional domestic trophies and Champions League titles.
Despite having examined plenty of statistics, we all know that statistics do not always tell the full tale of a player’s ability. But as Pele’s reputation has been singularly buttressed by such collections of carefully manipulated figures, it is vitally important to compare them with those pertaining to the other biggest names of the sport and to interpret them in their situational perspective. Once this is done, the Pele myth is exposed for exactly what it is – a myth.