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Pele was only good in World Cups? I think not. September 18, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Brazilian soccer, English soccer.
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In a column (“Manchester United’s Rooney could yet stand comparison with Pele”) published yesterday on the Guardian’s website, Paul Wilson writes the following absurdity about Pele:

[T]he brilliant Brazilian’s fame was based almost exclusively on his World Cup performances. Every four years he would come round like a comet, then for the most part disappear from European view.

I suppose, if you consider that fame can only be “based” on the “European view,” that could be accurate. But that’s not really what fame is all about.

Of course we all remember Pele most for what he did in the 1958 and 1970 World Cups. Wilson’s drawing a comparison with Wayne Rooney, whose “career to date has been just the opposite,” he says. But in fact, I think the thing most people remember most about Rooney is his Euro 2004 performances. International performances are more memorable. The whole of England can appreciate it when Rooney scores goals for his country, but when he does it for Manchester United, it’s tainted by the fact that nobody but Manchester United fans really likes Manchester United.

And anyway, Pele gained more fame at club level than Rooney has. Rooney has won the Champions League once. Pele won the Copa Libertadores twice, and that was in the days when the tournament was open only to national champions, meaning that Pele only even got to play in the Libertadores five times, the last of which came in 1966. Pele won five national titles with Santos, all of them settled by straight knockout, rather than the league system. And he won ten state titles, the highest league system in Brazil at the time.

More than that, he toured the world with Santos, spreading his fame across the continents. It was a game featuring Pele’s Santos that is said to have stopped the Nigerian Civil War for two days. I doubt that’s an achievement Wayne Rooney’s Manchester United will equal any time soon.

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