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Pele obituary: From humble origins to immortality

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by Michael Place

RIO DE JANEIRO, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) — Pele was three months shy of his 10th birthday when he made a promise to his father Dondinho.

The pair had just listened to a radio broadcast of Uruguay’s 2-1 victory over Brazil in the decisive match of the 1950 World Cup at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium, a result that later came to be known as the Maracanazo.

“For the first time I saw my father cry,” Pele said in a 2014 interview with FIFA.

“I told him: “Don’t cry, dad. I’m going to win the World Cup for you.”

Little could Dondinho have imagined that, only eight years later, his son would be carried off Stockholm’s Rasunda stadium on his teammates’ shoulders as the youngest ever World Cup champion.

Pele’s father was now crying tears of joy as Brazil celebrated their first World Cup trophy and the world hailed the birth of a global phenomenon.

Edson Arantes do Nascimento was born in Tres Coracoes, a farming town in the southeastern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, the son of former Fluminense striker Dondinho and Celeste Arantes.

He is said to have earned the nickname Pele because of his mispronunciation of Vasco de Gama goalkeeper Bile, which was the subject of mirth among his peers.

He had a humble upbringing and earned his first salary by working as a waiter in a tea shop. Pele showed an interest in football at a young age and practiced with paper-filled socks because his parents were unable to afford a football.

His talent quickly became evident and by the age of 15, he earned his first contract with Brazilian giants Santos. Within a year he was the leading forward in Santos’ first team and in July 1957, 10 months after making his professional debut, the promising attacker was called up to Brazil’s national team.

Pele’s first international goal came on debut in Brazil’s 2-1 loss to Argentina at the Maracana and to this day he remains the country’s youngest scorer at 16 years and nine months.

At the age of 17, Pele entered the 1958 World Cup with a knee injury and missed Brazil’s first two matches against Austria and England. He returned for the final group stage match against the Soviet Union, providing an assist in a 2-0 victory.

He then scored the winner in a 1-0 quarterfinal defeat of Wales before netting a hat-trick as Brazil routed France 3-0 in the semifinals. A brace in the final against Sweden – which Brazil won 5-2 – confirmed Pele’s status as a new giant of the game.

“When Pele scored the fifth goal in that final, I have to be honest and say I felt like applauding,” Sweden midfielder Sigvard Parling later said.

By the time the 1962 World Cup started in Chile, 21-year-old Pele was already widely considered the best player in the world. He scored one goal and set up another in his team’s opening 2-0 win over Mexico but was injured in the next game against Czechoslovakia and missed the rest of the tournament.

In his absence, Mane Garrincha assumed the role as playmaker-in-chief to lead Brazil to another World Cup triumph as they overcame Czechoslovakia 3-1 in the final.

Football fans were again denied the chance to see Pele in full flight four years later. The tournament in England should have bore witness to Pele at his prime, but the then 25-year-old was the target of unsporting behavior from opponents, who fouled him at every opportunity to limit his impact. He was injured against Bulgaria and Portugal as the reigning champions were eliminated in the first round.

A despondent Pele vowed to never play in the World Cup again but he changed his mind ahead of the 1970 tournament in Mexico. The rest is part of football folklore. Pele participated in 53% of his team’s goals, scoring four times and providing six assists en route to winning the Golden Ball award for the competition’s best player as Brazil clinched another title.

Pele ended his international career in 1971 but he continued to play for Santos – with whom he won every trophy possible – until 1974 when he announced his retirement from all football at the age of 34.

Having resisted moves to join Europe’s biggest clubs throughout his career, Pele was coaxed out of retirement less than a year later when he accepted a lucrative offer to play for the New York Cosmos.

He scored 37 times in 64 appearances for the Cosmos and led the club to the North American Soccer League title in 1977, his final season.

Pele ended his 21-year professional career with 732 goals in 792 games for club and country – an extraordinary record for a player who was mainly deployed as an attacking midfielder, not a striker.

His tally of 77 international goals in 92 matches stood alone as a national record before Neymar equaled the mark in Brazil’s World Cup quarterfinal defeat to Croatia in early December.

He is the only player to have won the FIFA World Cup three times and in 2000 he shared the FIFA player of the century award with Diego Maradona. In the same year, Pele was elected the athlete of the century by the International Olympic Committee and he was included in Time magazine’s list of the 100 most important people of the 1900s.

Pele’s fame extended far beyond the sporting arena and in 1969, the antagonists of Nigeria’s civil war struck a 48-hour ceasefire to watch the Brazilian play an exhibition match in Lagos. The Santos No. 10 scored twice in a 2-2 draw with local side Stationery Stores FC.

Pele remained in the public spotlight after retiring. In 1994, he was named a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. The following year, Brazil’s then-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso appointed Pele as the country’s minister for sport and he is credited for introducing anti-corruption legislation that brought greater transparency and accountability to Brazil’s notoriously opaque football institutions.

In addition to politics, Pele also dabbled in acting, appearing in films such as Escape to Victory (1981), Mike Bassett: England Manager (2001) and the Brazilian television series Os Estranhos (1969).

His public appearances gradually diminished in the 2000s as he grappled with ill health, including problems related to his spine, hip, knee and kidneys. In September 2021, Pele underwent surgery to remove a tumor from his colon.

Pele was admitted to the Albert Einstein hospital in late November for treatment of a respiratory infection. He remained in hospital throughout December after doctors said he required “more extensive care”.

Pele is survived by six children. Another, Sandra Arantes do Nascimento, who sued him to prove she was his daughter, died of breast cancer in 2006.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Chelsea and Mauricio Pochettino part ways after just one season

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LONDON, May 21 (Xinhua) — Chelsea have parted with coach Mauricio Pochettino and his coaching staff after just one season, the club announced on Tuesday.

Chelsea announced the news with a brief statement on their official website saying: “Chelsea FC can confirm that the club and Mauricio Pochettino have mutually agreed to part ways”, while Pochettino thanked the club for “the opportunity to be part of this football club’s history”, adding that Chelsea was now “well positioned to keep moving forward in the Premier League and Europe in the years to come.”

The former Tottenham, Southampton and Paris Saint Germain coach arrived at Stamford Bridge last May, after a disastrous campaign that saw the club sacked Thomas Tuchel in September 2022, before then showing his replacement, Graham Potter the door in April 2023 and appointing Frank Lampard as an interim coach until the end of the disastrous campaign which Chelsea finished 12th in the Premier League.

The club spent heavily over the summer, mainly on young players, while losing several veterans such as Cesar Azpilicueta, N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic.

An important turnover in playing staff and as young squad saw Chelsea struggle for performances and results for much of the season, although a strong finish to the campaign saw Chelsea win their last five matches and finish sixth in the Premier League to qualify for next season’s Europa League.

Pochettino also led Chelsea to the Carabao Cup final, which they lost 1-0 to Liverpool, while they also lost the FA Cup semifinal 1-0 to Manchester City.

The south London club has now had seven coaches since Antonio Conte left the job in the summer of 2018.

Source(s): Xinhua

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No Rashford as Southgate names 33 man preliminary England squad

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LONDON, May 21 (Xinhua) — England coach Gareth Southgate produced a surprise on Tuesday when he named his preliminary squad for the forthcoming European Championships when he left out Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford.

The absence of Rashford, who has 17 goals in 60 appearances for England, is the biggest surprise in the 33-man squad (which has to be reduced to 26 by June 7), which is also without veteran midfielder Jordan Henderson and central defender Eric Dier, who has been in excellent form for Bayern Munich.

Southgate has included Manchester United left-back Luke Shaw, despite him not playing since February, but with no Ben Chilwell in the squad, if Shaw isn’t fit enough to make the final cut, England will go into the tournament without a specialist left-back.

“I just feel other players in other areas of the pitch have had better seasons,” said Southgate when asked about Rashford’s absence.

Everton’s exciting young defender Jarrad Branthwaite and Liverpool defender Jarell Quansah are both in the squad, along with Joe Gomez, who could be an option at left-back if Shaw isn’t fit.

20-year-old midfielder Adam Wharton is also given a chance after impressing following his move from Blackburn Rovers to Crystal Palace in January.

Meanwhile, Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins and Brentford forward Ivan Toney have been given a call up, with Toney perhaps lucky to be preferred to Bournemouth forward Dominic Solanke, who ended the season with 19 goals in the Premier League.

“There’s definitely much more attacking options than compared to other squads,” commented Southgate, who was also happy his players had more “tournament experience.”

“We’re really happy with where the squad is at. But everything starts from zero. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done in the past,” he added.

Full squad:

Goalkeepers: Dean Henderson, Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, James Trafford.

Defenders: Jarrad Branthwaite, Lewis Dunk, Joe Gomez, Marc Guehi, Ezri Konsa, Harry Maguire, Jarell Quansah, Luke Shaw, John Stones, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker.

Midfielders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Conor Gallagher, Curtis Jones, Kobbie Mainoo, Declan Rice, Adam Wharton.

Forwards: Jude Bellingham, Jarrod Bowen, Eberechi Eze, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Anthony Gordon, Harry Kane, James Maddison, Cole Palmer, Bukayo Saka, Ivan Toney, Ollie Watkins.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Liverpool confirm Feyenoord boss Arne Slot as new head coach

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LONDON, May 20 (Xinhua) — Liverpool have confirmed Feyenoord coach Arne Slot as their new head coach with an announcement on their official website.

“Liverpool Football Club can announce Arne Slot has agreed a deal to become the club’s new head coach, formally taking up the position on June 1, 2024, subject to a work permit.”

“The 45-year-old will join the Reds from Feyenoord ahead of the 2024-25 season after a deal was reached with the Eredivisie club for his services,” explained Liverpool.

Slot’s arrival to replace Klopp has been an open secret in recent days and Jurgen Klopp even lead the supporters at Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium in chanting his name as he said ‘goodbye’ after a Sunday’s 2-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers, which ended the season.

Slot joins Liverpool after three years at Feyenoord in which he led them to the 2023 Eredivisie title which was their first title in six years, and this year he followed that success by leading them to the Dutch Cup in April.

Source(s): Xinhua

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