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Pele opens new football school to support Brazilian children

8:45 PM GMT+4 17/12/2018
Academia Pelé
The only man in history to win the World Cup on three occasions as a player, the game has given Pele so much, and the 78-year-old is still giving back

Last week, Pele stepped back into the spotlight as he opened his new football centre in Rio de Janeiro.

The King of Football and the greatest player in the game’s history arrived in Resende to attend the opening ceremony of his new Academia Pele.

The only man in history to win the World Cup on three occasions as a player, the game has given Pele so much, and the 78-year-old continues to give back.

The school has been set up with the purpose of providing help and support to talented young footballers hoping to emulate Pele himself.

The academy will not limit its work to what takes place on the football pitch, however, with programmes in place to educate the children academically and socially, too.

A huge crowd gathered to see Pele, who has battled ill health of late. And while he did appear fragile and a little weaker than previously, he was in great spirits and spared no effort to share his experience and wisdom with everyone who attended the event.

He was received by the String Orchestra of Education of Resende, made up of 28 children. Then, 20 others joined from the Choir of Getúlio Vargas Municipal College in what made for a fitting welcome.

Pele was clearly inspired and moved by the greeting and the affection he received from the children on the day as he was emotional as when presented with a statue is honour. 

As was he when the Forest of Goals was revealed – consisting of 1,283 species of plants and flowers that will grown around the pitches, one for each goal he scored during his unrivalled career.

"In 1969, when I scored my 1,000th I spoke about the necessity to look to the future, to look to the children and ensure we provide them all they need to be able to dream that they could one day achieve what I have,” Pele said.

“I received all these tributes here today and I can’t believe that all these people, most of whom never even saw me play, can greet me with this much affection. I hope this project can help in the development of many, many children.

Pelé added: "It is a great responsibility to have my name linked to a city like this. Resende opened its doors and I am very proud that I can present them with this Center of Football Excellence, mainly to prepare children to be great people. We all have to work together to create good citizens. This is the great importance of the project.

And for all the fanfare and rightful tributes on what was an emotional day, Pele also offered a slightly more sobering thought or two as his health begins to catch up with him. 

"I played 25 years with Santos and the Brazilian National Team, plus five more years with the Cosmos,” he said. “And now God is sending me the bill.”

Sympathetic and humorous, O Rei also left a message for children wishing to match his success in the game.

"You must always play in order to improve and keep trying, as I always did,” he said. “You must never think you're the best, you must always think you have to improve. That is what I must pass on to the children who want to be great players, that you always have to work.”

Pele also found the time to recall some amusing anecdotes from his illustrious career in the game, reserving one joke for former Germany captain and his old Cosmos team-mate Franz Beckenbauer.

"I didn’t speak German but I learned a few English words and Beckenbauer used to joke with me. He already spoke English and one of the good things I learned from him was speaking English. So, I I speak English badly then it's because of him,” Pele joked.

Finally, Pele left the crowd with a few words of wisdom on teamwork and how we must all work together in order to achieve our goals.

“I think that when we talk about goals, the attackers are the ones we discuss the most. It's a good thing for me, I had the opportunity to score a lot of goal, but I did not score any of them alone. If I did not have a good goalkeeper, a full-back to help me… No one plays alone, so I think that’s important to remember.”