November 28, 2007

Ipek Cem recently met with soccer royalty Pele, otherwise known as the best player of the 20th century. Always 'a good sport', Pele provided Cem with candid insights into his career, as well as his main drivers in life.

Ipek Cem: My guest today is the legendary Pelé, known globally as the "King of Football". Welcome to Global Leaders.


Pele: Thank you very much. It's a big pleasure for me to be here one more time in Turkey, with the beautiful love of the people.


Ipek Cem: Yes. You know you inspire so many people, and young people, and old people, sports people, non-sports people around the world. Many people are asking, "What is behind this magic?"


Pele: I don't know. This only God can explain that, but I think one reason is because football is a world-wide sport. You know. The biggest family in the world today is football, because football has more associate – and FIFA, for example – has more associates than UNESCO. Then it becomes a big family. The other side: always when I come to the field, you know, I try to do my best for other people. You know I want to do my best to make the people happy. I play with my heart for the sport. I think this combinations make, you know, people like me. I treat everybody the same. You know I love to be with people: the youngsters. I think this maybe: to respect people. This is good.


Ipek Cem: What is amazing to me is that it has been 30 years since you stopped playing professionally, your amazing game. But this doesn't take away anything from the type of respect, and the type of appreciation people have of you because you have also continued to contribute to the sport with your schools, and other activities. Can you talk a little bit about your schools in Brazil?


Pele: Yeah. That is another reason why I am always close to the people, because the communication is very important. When I stopped to play soccer I continued to... I continued to work with UNICEF. I did a lot of work with UNESCO. We did a lot of charity programme and games. You know, FIFA is too, they have a programme with the undeveloped countries. Sometime I help FIFA. And then: I love people.  I wanted to be with the people. I wanted to give something back what I get from football, because God gave everything to me. Then I try to give something back to the people. I like to say "Hello" to the youngster, and this makes me feel very emotion too. Sometimes, as you mentioned before. In a long time I didn't play. You know I am out of the professional football 30 years. Then the kids with 8 years, 5 years, when they see me in the airport, they say, "Oh Mummy, Mummy look at Pelé there!" and, "Pappy. Look at Pelé there". It's amazing. This is a gift of God.


Ipek Cem: What has amazed me is in all the questions we got.... It was ranging from 15 year old to 60 year old from the internet, and one of the questions was about your name. There are many legends surrounding your name, and how you got the name Pelé, because you were named, actually, after Thomas Edison. You had a long name, but the nickname Pelé stuck with you. How did it happen?


Pele: The people sometime, they don't understand, because always when I was younger, I didn't like the name. Thomas Edison was the inventor of the light, a scientist, and I born in Minas Gerais Do you know, the city where I born, the name is "Three Hearts". Três Corações. Then comes the light and energy. Comes the light, and my father, they gave me name Edson. Edson, because of Thomas Edison.


Ipek Cem: I didn't know this aspect.


Pele: Yeah. Then I was very proud, because Edson very important name... when they started to play football with the Yanks in another city, because my father went to Sao Paulo. My father was a good soccer player. He scored a lot of goals centre-forward. I just want to be like my father.


Ipek Cem: He had an injury, and he had to stop.


Pele: Yeah. And then he had to stop. And then the same city, Bauru. I was played with the kids. I don't know if I did some mistake, I don't remember. But then somebody say, "Pelé", I say "No... Pelé no..." I miss a kick maybe I did some wrong words. I say, "Don't call me Pelé. My name is Edson". Then I fight with everyone. You know. Then I went to the school. Later on I went to school. The same happened in school: in the classroom. The same kids – you know – the call me Pelé. Then I fight in the school. I get two days suspended. They call my mother, my father. The school say... I say, "I fight with him because he call me Pelé. I do not like this ugly name. I do not love. My name is Edson". From there on, everybody start to go "Pelé", "Pelé" ,"Pelé"...


Ipek Cem: To spite you...


Pele: Then I kept the name Pelé.. Today I love it. Everybody can understand. It is easy to pronunciation, but that the reason... the exact reason... I don't know. We have a lot of journalists who tried to find why, you know? the meaning of the name "Pelé". They went to Africa. They went to Asia. They went to... every place to see the base and the meaning.. They find, I think... in Martinique (Yes) they find a vulcan, called Madame Pelé.


Ipek Cem: A volcano, yes.


Pele: Volcano, Madame Pelé. And then in Greek mythology I think they have a book they call "Pelé". Is a black cat. No? There is a book... Then they keep find... the real, real, you know. Some players in Brazil, one goal keeper, they have the name "Bilé". Bilé was a friend of my father. Then maybe because of "Bilé , I say "Pelé". Was a mistake. Maybe for this reason... nobody knows exactly. Only God knows.


Ipek Cem: This is also what I read: the Bilé story. When you started soccer in the mid-1950s,  the world was a different place than today's soccer in terms of football becoming such a global sport, and the TV, and the amount of money, the professionalisation of football, and all the associations. How would it be to be playing right now compared to when you started out?


Pele: Yeah. There was a big difference. But I think among the people, I think is not, doesn't have big difference, because – just for example – Maracanã Stadium, in Brazil, they have a 210 seats 210 thousand, 210 seats. They used to have, you know, every game they used to have 190, 200 people, because the people used to go to the stadium, because they didn't have TV. You know? And then Santos, the team who I used to play, to make money, they used to play all over the world, you know. Because the ticket was the money of the team there. Then I played here. When I play here, I pass with centre forward the first time. I think you were not born, a lot of people were not born. But we came here because Santos used to make money (yes) to travel all over the world. This was the big difference, today. Today you have the TV, a lot of sponsors, you know? (Yes) On one occasion, I have a nice history, because when the Brazil won the first World Cup, I was 17 in Sweden. When they finish the World Cup, Brazil won. The King from Sweden come inside he field to shake my and. I wanted to call to my family you know, but there was not telephone. I would have to talk to the radio, you know. We would have to the radio station and then start to talk. Then wait until next day. It was a... It was a big chance, because today they have a lot of sponsors, who put money in the football, or who, you know. These may make the football, you know a little more...automatic is not hard to do sport.


Ipek Cem: Do you think it's a bit overdone? Do you feel that some people miss the days of more amateur, and just more pure soccer days.


Pele: Well the problem is the whole world, the whole society is like that, today, you know. Today is changed completely the mentality of the people, you know. Today we have the internet, telecommunications so quickly. Then is the life different, you know. I used to play 25 years in my team Santos, I never wanted to go out, because I was OK to... today, the Yanks players. They play, you know, one year here, six month. Then, if he get a little more money, he go to the other team. Now if he got more money, he go to the other team. No loyal. This is the difference, you know.


Ipek Cem: You were very loyal to Santos even though you had very good offers from Europe You stayed with Santos pretty much until you went to Cosmos, pretty much throughout a large portion of your career.


Pele: Yeah. That's because I was OK. Santos was the best team at that time, with Real Madrid. During the 15 years santos and Real Madrid was almost the same level ... and then they pay good money for me to do my life. I don't look... you know... A lot of players that time Didi, Vava, they come to play in Europe. Dino Sani was a mid-field. They come to play in Europe. But I don't want to live, you know,  I was OK.


Ipek Cem: A couple of years back FIFA asked you to name the 100 best football players of all time, and you actually – I saw the list published on the internet. If you had to name, in your mind... I guess maybe you will exclude yourself, because we know that already... five best players in your thinking of all times, who would they be?


Pele: Listen. This FIFA programme, they have a book (Yes) You know, the people sometime the people got a little confused with that (OK) And they got the book, and then they wanted to select the names. They asked to select the names who give something to football, who stay in football. Even if people doesn't understand well, but they asked to mention some girls...


Ipek Cem: Two girls.


Pele: Two girls...


Ipek Cem: From the States, yes.


Pele: From the United States, because at that time – this was five years ago – was the best player in the moment, you know. That the people don't understand.  I could not put my... my... you know, my ten Brazilian, for example, best players. I have to get the players from the moment, because... I had other players who I saw who inspired me, you know. Like... my inspiration, when I was young, was a player who played in the national team of Brazil. First of all it was my father (yes) because I just want to be like my father. Then later on when I start to play, the mid-field forward called Zizinho, to me was the best player in Brazil... one of the best players in the world. I could not mention Zizinho because there was not that time.

Then if you have to do a book with the name of excellent players... we need, you know, a hundred books.


Ipek Cem: Yes, but to name a couple of your favourites.


Pele: At the moment, the last moment after I finished my career, for example, I think we can not forget Platini, he was fantastic. Beckenbauer goal keeper, Banks and Yashin, the Russian, Yashin, no doubt. Because sometimes people just remember the forwards, you know.

We have Cruyff, Di Stéfano. We have Zico. Zico, Brazil, was you know no doubt the Pelé black, the Pelé white. And I have.... Let's see, Maradona now. Zidane to me he is... Zidane was one of the excellent player. George Best, who play Europe... You see, in one second I gave to you ten names. We have a lot of good players.


Ipek Cem: There is a young player called Messi, from Argentina, and some people say he is a mix between Pelé and Maradonna. Are you following his career?


Pele: Yes, he is young. We have Ronaldinho... I think, to me Ronaldinho is a more efficient, more complete than Messi, because he has more experience. After Zidane, I think Ronaldinho the last five years no doubt was... and now it's started to appear Messi. Even, I think Caca, you know, is a more experienced and a more efficient than Messi. They are, you know, the same time... but Messi is a good player. No doubt. He just start now. He was in the reserve of the Argentine team, the national team, he become... he has now to get one World Cup to prove... this is what he miss.


Ipek Cem: Who are some of your current other top players? Other than the one you've just mentioned? Are there other names?


Pele: You say... you say my time?


Ipek Cem: Yes, current. Today.


Pele: I can mention a lot of great names because you have in Brazil excellent players who play. Every year they come with a new player...


Ipek Cem: You mention, and we know that Brazil... for Brazil football is a national sport. It's a way of connecting with each other. It's really a phenomena. But here in Turkey... a completely different part of the world, we also enjoy football, love football, and live and die for it. And our team is quite active in European Championships. In fact, last night we had a win which qualifies us now for Europe 2008. Are you watching Turkish football teams at all?


Pele: Yeah. We have some highlights. Some goals in Brazil. They don't show the league. It is very difficult to follow, because but of course we know. And then, it is not only for Turkey, you know, that people love football. Football is loved. Football is the best, is the biggest sport in the world. It is the biggest family in the world is the football. The same passion you have here in Turkey, we have in Brazil, they have in Russia, they have in Germany, they have... you know football is the only sport where you put people together, you know, it doesn't matter if you are rich, or poor, or black, or white. It is one nation. This is the beauty of football. But we have a nice memory about the semi-final in Korea.


Ipek Cem: Yes.


Pele: Japan-Korea. Brazil, you know, was a hard time to play the semi final with Turkey. The level of football here there is no doubt the level is same level of any big country in the world. You know the football here become a very, very, you know good level. No doubt.


Ipek Cem: Now Brazil in 2014 will be hosting the World Championship, and your name is synonymous almost with Brazil and football. How do you feel about this? I know you weren't present at the signing or the confirmation, but how do you feel about this generally and what do you think about Brazil's prospects because previously... in the previous time you lost when you were the hosts.


Pele: Brazil, as you mentioned before, is crazy about football. People, they wait for this moment, but this doesn't mean we are going to win the championship. That is the problem. As you mentioned also, now, unfortunately the only World Cup we have in Brazil, the 50s. I was ten years old. You know, Brazil lost. I saw my father crying because Brazil lost. We have Africa before, I think the preparation today for the World Cup today is very tough, because you have a 32 countries is a lot of work, but we have, you know, seven year to prepare everything, and then I think we are going to have a very nice organisation. I hope Brazil that time have more luck.


Ipek Cem: Then you had time with Cosmos, in the US, and at that time I believe the Manager of Cosmos later said, "I was able to convince Pelé, by saying if you go to Europe, you will win championships, but if you come to the US, you will win a country". And many people credit you with making the United States more close towards football, and getting to understand and liking the sport. How were those years?


Pele: I think this was one of the most important decision of my life, because I had a lot of propose to go to, you know, Real Madrid, to Milan, to Juventus and Mexico. They ask to me to go to Mexico, but I was retired in Brazil after 24 years, 20 years of football. Then I say, if I come to Europe, it will be the same to play the league in Brazil. First of all I wanted to stop, to rest a little bit, and then, in the second one, I wanted to give more attention to my family. Then, to decide to go to the United States, to promote soccer, football-soccer, was a great decision, because now after football become very big in the United States is not, in the money-wise, is not big like baseball, like basketball, but as a sport, the United States today they have between 8 years and 20 years the biggest sport, pastime for the kids, for the youngsters is the soccer, football-soccer. You know, this is amazing. Then I used to say to the Brazilian people, I say, "Listen. Brazil, always they buy from the United States. The first who was sell to the United States was football." Because now they have a team, they have excellent football there. They love football. Then I think this was one of the ... the gift of God to me. To give me to go to the United States, and bring football there. Today they love football. They come with the national team, they qualify for the World Cup, you know the last was theWorld Cup. This was my role. This was my achievement for go to the United States, not come to Europe.


Ipek Cem: When you were with Cosmos, did you have time to interact with Mr Ahmet Ertegün who is, you know, another legendary Turk who unfortunately passed away, but was very much involved with the team?


Pele: Oh yes. He was one of the best friend who I had there...


Ipek Cem: Any memories you'd like to share?


Pele: Oh. Many, many, memories, because we went to all the... he used to be from the Warner Records Company. And all the big stars... because I come up from Brazil, I didn't know the big stars... all the big stars, like Michael Jackson, like OJ Simpson, after... before they have all the problem, you know. Frank Sinatra, you know, who else... Rod Stewart... All those, they used to bring... Pelé, come here, this is a star too, then I went there. Then his brother Nesuhi, you know, and Ahmet, they both went to Brazil sometime. They help the team in Brazil, through America, it was the team from. Then until, you know, he pass away. I used to be with him. One time, I remember, I have a little problem with the boat... I am bad in the boat...


Ipek Cem: You get boat sick...


Pele: Yes sea sick. Then he has a beautiful boat. They say always, he and his wife. His wife was a designer...


Ipek Cem: Designer, yes, Mica.


Pele: Mica, she said, "You must go to Turkey, because we have a beautiful boat...". I say Nesuhi I am a very bad boat. God keep him in a good way.


Ipek Cem: You also served in Brazil as a Minister for Sports. Do you anticipate to continue to be more in public service, or still more dedication to football?


Pele: Every election in Brazil, they have invite me, somebody have invite me to be party of that, but I don't want to be. I want to support Fernando Henrique Cardoso, he was a President of Brazil, and then he invited me to help to organise and to professionalize Brazil as an administration for the football. Then I say, OK, maybe I can help. This three and a half, four years, as a Minister of Sport was a good experience. Then I realise I am never happy to be in politics. That was, you know, the end!


Ipek Cem: There are many young people aspiring to what you have become, but for the love of the sport as well: not just to become famous. What do you say to those young people who are just starting out in football, and who are very passionate about it? How can they keep at it?


Pele: Well, I think the kids always they look forward to be always the big stars. Not only football, any profession. They want to be the best, you know, singer, they want to be the best political, only the stars. But I think sometime the life give you opportunity, and long to be a big star, but you don't need to be a big star, you need to be beautiful, excellent man. Human being. This is the first. And for that, you have to go to school, to try to prepare yourself, to be good with your heart. This is very important. With your conscience. Then, if you have talent, you are going to be anywhere one of the greats, you know, sportive, or businessmen, or political people, or singer. Most important is be a good man. That what I said to the youngster. Kids.


Ipek Cem: On that note, I'd like to tell you "obligado"


Pele: Obligado nada...


Ipek Cem: And you had a message for Turkey, in Turkish...


Pele: No, it is difficult to say it...


Ipek Cem: Merhaba Türkiye


Pele:  Merhaba Türkiye. It is a big pleasure to me. Obligado.


Ipek Cem: Thank you very much.


This transcript was typed from a transcription unit recording and not copied from an original script. Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, NTV networks and Ipek Cem cannot vouch for its accuracy.