Pele is one of the most renowned footballers. Actually, he is probably one of the greatest footballers to ever live. Pele was just 17 years old when he made his first World Cup appearance, and since that day he has won 3 world cup trophies and scored over 1250 goals. In 1977, Pele published one of his many autobiographies. The 1977 autobiography was called My Life and the Beautiful Game.
I was fortunate enough to receive this book recently. I really wanted this book because I was hoping that the words and actions of a dedicated, outstanding footballer would set an example for me of how to achieve the football dream. I didn’t get what I was looking for, (it was still inspiring, though) but instead I got an interesting, quick, look at the life of the Brazilian star. Despite the autobiography’s flaws, this book is great for anybody interested in learning a bit more about Pele.
The book follows Pele’s life all the way up until 1977, when he was still playing football in America for the New York Cosmos. Unfortunately, it’s not in chronological order. My Life and the Beautiful Game starts off with Pele describing the 1958 World Cup, and then he begins to proceed to talk about his youth for a chapter, then back to the 1958 World Cup for 3 chapters. Thankfully, this only happens one other time in the book, when a chapter about his youth is placed between chapters about a World Cup. This incorrect chronology leaves out some of the struggle that Pele must have had getting to that point in his career by not allowing his story to develop before you read about him achieving greatness in the world cup.
Another minor flaw in My Life and the Beautiful Game was that at times, it seems Pele used Google translate to write this book. His grammar and word choice sometimes leave one wondering what he is trying to say. For example, Pele says that he had to shine shoes because his family couldn’t “furnish sufficient custom.” Instead, he could have simply said that they needed money. At another time, Pele illustrates the story of how he couldn’t be shaved for a senior hazing when he was at college, because he made a deal with many sponsors that he would look the same in all the pictures. Pele, instead of simply saying my efforts didn’t pay off, as shown in my picture from 1970, creates a complex 3-line sentence that leaves the reader wondering what he’s trying to say. His word choice, grammar, and exceedingly long sentences make this book hard to understand at times-a native English speaker would need a dictionary to figure it out. This not-so-great grammar is not helped by the abrupt transitions in his book. Pele will be talking about his parents or his business, and then suddenly start talking about Santos, without even a transition word such as speaking of. Of course, it can be hard to find correct transitions for paragraphs, especially when English isn’t your first language, but your ideas should at least be corrected somehow. Of course, these abrupt transitions only occur once in a while. The not-so-great grammar and word choice occur more often, but not enough to cause one to put down this book and never look at it again.
The story of Pele’s life is very interesting, and it is wonderful to be able to know what one of the world’s greats was thinking at certain moments in his career. The beginning of the book provides a great look at Pele’s childhood- his humble roots and how he got started playing soccer. Pele tells of how he had to steal peanuts to be able to buy soccer uniforms, he lived in an overcrowded house and was very poor growing up, originally wanted to be an aviator, and often suffered from nightmares. (Of course, I wish he would have went into even more detail about his youth, and how hard he worked, how he played all the time, how he played on the beach, etc; But I guess I shouldn’t have been looking for in an in-depth, super-motivational story from a 350 page book that spans over 30 years). Later on in the book, Pele describes not only his career with Santos and Brazil, but also his family, business, and how he ended up moving to America as well as some “behind-the-scenes” snippets of what Pele was thinking and what training was like. For example, one of the scenes in this book that I will always recall is how Pele learned to jump so high. With one coach, all the players would have to jump and head the ball. Pele was shorter than everybody else, so had to jump higher, and this is why he believes he can jump so high today. (It is probably also because he played on the beach and that really helps with everything, including jumping higher). Besides these glimpses into the unknown training and life of Pele, I suppose people who were alive during Pele’s era would already know a lot about what was in the book’s later chapters. But for somebody who was not lucky enough to see such a great player play, it is very interesting to be able to take a look back at how football was like in Pele’s era.
This autobiography, despite not being written in perfect English and not being the inspirational, get yourself out the door and start playing at 5 in the morning story I was hoping for, is a good read and provides insight into the life of one of football’s greatest players ever. I recommend to anyone who would like to learn more about Pele, his life in general, football in Pele’s era, or how Pele’s training was like and a brief look at what he had to do to become as good as he is. Now, if you are looking for a story about how Pele developed as a player and was able to become so great, don’t get this book.