Well he’s just one person. We’re all entitled to our viewpoints
The age old debate -- should highly visible individuals use their platforms to bring awareness to issues that affect their communities? Pele is a dark skinned Brazilian that is not only a multi - millionaire but an international house hold name. If not for soccer, his life would have been very different. Black and brown Brazilians make up 50% of the population but 78% live below the poverty line and only 4% between the ages of 18 - 24 have attended university due to the majority having less than 11 years of formal schooling. Darker skinned Brazilians think they’ve found their Muhammad Ali, But Pelé’s just like “I’m not black, I’m OJ.”
Brazil Explained - “Não vai ter Copa!” (“There will be no Cup!”)
Understanding the paradox of Pele, requires the contextual history of his homeland, Brazil. Brazil is a beautiful country, rich with culture and its multiethnic society parallels its diverse topography. But like all countries, there are parts its leaders wish to remain hidden. Persistent racial and income inequality and political graft have been it’s achilles heel.
The 2014 World Cup in Rio was the most expensive one to date, costing a whopping $11 billion. However the costs go beyond money. Lives and communities were destroyed and critics argue that Brazil had (and still has) more pressing issues in creating access to healthcare, public transportation, education, and security. But, soccer isn’t just a beloved pastime. It’s a political tool used to evince positional superiority with European powers. Remember, Brazilian elites have an underdog mentality towards Europe. It’s for this reason their 1958 first World Cup victory won on European soil (team lead by Pele) made a statement to the world. And conversely their 2014, 7-1 loss to Germany on Brazilian soil was a complete humiliation on the global stage.
O Rei du Futbol (The King of Soccer)
Despite the controversy, none can deny Pelé’s contributions to the beautiful game and his iconic status in modern Brazilian and global history. He glamorously ended his career with the New York Cosmos, signing a 3 year deal that made him in the highest paid athlete in the world. Off the pitch, FIFA named him “Co - Player of the Century” along with Diego Maradona. The International Olympic Committee named him Athlete of the Century -- although he never participated in the Olympics. He’s won an International Peace Award with Unicef, served as Brazil’s Extraordinary (yep extraordinary) Minister for Sport, a United Nations ambassador, and received many other notable awards.