A lot of ink has been spent writing about the best football player of all times, but two names remain constant: Pelé and Maradona. The story of Pelé illustrates the reason soccer is considered a more democratic sport, where wealth doesn’t matter. In fact, most world class players do not come from wealthy families, where tennis and golf are the preferred sports. Futbol is played in dirt lots in small towns, in giant stadiums and in school yards around the world and no helmets are needed, just shorts and a shirt. In fact Pelé learned to play with no shoes and no shirt in his native Brazil. Maradona was also poor as a young man, but his talent and notoriety made him rich. But Maradona suffers when compared to Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pelé’s birth name.
Two decades separate the two athletes and Pelé’s numerous accomplishments and trophies far outshine Maradona’s, who is idolized in his native Argentina as the best player of all time. Maradona received FIFA’s Player of the Century award in 2000 as the People’s choice and Pelé as the choice of the experts. Pelé scored 1281 goals in 1363 games, a record unmatched by any other footballer. The two personalities left different records and profiles for the history books. While Maradona suffered ill health, Pelé was healthy for most of his career, since his debut at the age of 16, and has led an exemplary life receiving FIFA’S Golden Ball for services to Football. Maradona is remembered for his addiction to cocaine and the famous “Hand of God,” goal he scored against England and the “Goal of the Century,” in the same game in 1986. Two names dominate the headlines in our days, Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi, and they might surpass the achievements of those two great athletes of the 20th century.