Monday, June 14, 2010

GOOAALL! For the Love of Soccer! by Pele


Long before America learned to bend it like Beckham, there was Pele, Brazil's most famed hero of futbol', arguably the world's most popular sport. Here in the midst of the hoopla over the 2010 World Cup matches in South Africa, with the United States team actually in contention for the finals, it is a good time to look back at one of the people who really got America in the game.

Pele, born Edison Arantes do Nascimento, was a kid whose drive to play was overwhelming. “I would play with anyone, anytime, anywhere!” he says, and his dedication and stamina won him a place with the Santos, the Brazilian team where he led them to many victories over his long career there between 1956 and 1972. Pele was also a member of a Brazilian national team which won several World Cups, including his first in 1958 in which he was the youngest, at age 17, ever to play on a winning team.

In 1974, after a year of retirement from the Santos, he accepted an offer to play with the New York Cosmos, where his games were first featured on nationwide television, including his final appearance in the sport in 1977, playing the first half with his Santos team and the second for the Cosmos and scoring a dramatic goal to end his scoring career. Because of these three years of American play Pele is given credit for firing the interest of young Americans to join in the sport which grew into the tremendous popularity of soccer among school-aged players and the growing ability of national teams in world competition today.

Frank Morrison's
For the Love of Soccer! (Hyperion, 2010) features his skillful illustrations in a design intended to inspire young players. In his own words Pele narrates the story of his life in soccer, with the left-hand pages featuring dramatic illustrations of Pele in action from childhood until the end of his career. Each facing page opposite shows a young player in an urban scene following in his footsteps to master the sport, supported by family and local fans. The final page shows the young fan playing with a ball with Pele's autograph. Soccer lovers will appreciate this look at one of the greats of the sport whose career has been a model for millions, a man whom fans of two nations can call their own.

As Pele puts it, "I've never played for fame. I play for the love of the game."

Pele dedicates his book this way:

To the children of the world, especially the children of America, who received me with open arms when I played for the New York Cosmos.

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