When you talk about the greatest footballers of all time, the conversation usually starts (and ends) with one name: Pelé.
The Brazillian futebol superstar turned pro in 1956 when he joined the club team Santos at the age of 15. He played for Santos until 1974, guiding the team to back-to-back Copa Libertadores championships in 1962 and 1963 and notched a Santos-record 619 goals in 638 games. His play for Santos made him a national hero — his play on the international stage made him a legend. Pelé joined Brazil's national team at 16 and led Brazil to three World Cup titles, in 1958, 1962, and 1970. He's the only player to win three World Cups, and he ranks fifth all-time with 12 goals.
Pelé talks about all that — and a lot more — in his new book, Why Soccer Matters. Back in April, he stopped by the Time & Life Building in New York to talk about the book, his career, and the 2014 World Cup. SI Kids caught up with him while he was in the building and were lucky enough to get a few minutes to ask O Rei do Futebol some questions.
The title of your book is Why Soccer Matters. So, tell me, why does soccer matter, especially for kids?
First of all, I think I should continue to give a good message to the kids. And to think about all my life, 25 years, I think this is the third generation who talk with modern life, with modern technology. I think it was a good moment to talk with those generation.
What makes Brazil such a great soccer country?
Everybody asks, "Why Brazil has, you know, so many good players and so many, you know, champions?" Something important, you don't know how to explain it.
Why is soccer important to the people of Brazil?
I think soccer is not so important for the people in Brazil. Soccer is important for the people all over the world. It's the biggest family in the world.
What does it mean for Brazil to host the World Cup again? It's been such a long time since 1950.
I think it's very important in two ways. Because Brazil has now three events important: Confederations Cup, World Cup, and the [2016 Summer] Olympics. This is a great moment to promote the country, to invite tourism, to make money. This is a very great moment for Brazil. This is one side. The other side: The only other World Cup that we had was in 1950, and Brazil lost. Now we have opportunity to recover, and I think this is one of those important moments.
Will Brazil recover?
I hope so. I don't want to see my son... Because, quickly, a story: I saw my father crying when Brazil lost in '50. I don't want my son to see me cry because Brazil lost. (laughs) I don't want that.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
For more World Cup coverage, check out SI Kids' Guide to the 2014 World Cup!
Photos: PICS UNITED/ICON SMI, Penguin Books USA
A Brief Conversation with Futebol Legend Pelé