As the World Cup approaches, everybody wants a piece of Pelé
Nothing here is a relative term. Cash has always flowed toward Pelé. He's had his rough times -- the demise of a construction business in the 1960s, the rubber-company liabilities that caused him to unretire and play for the Cosmos -- and none worse than the 2001 accusation that his sports marketing firm pocketed $700,000 that was due to UNICEF for a canceled exhibition. (UNICEF denied the allegation.) Claiming soon afterward that $10 million had been stolen from him, Pelé sued his partner of 16 years, Hélio Viana (who charged in the press that Pelé owed him $5 million), and shuttered the company. But he was also pulling in a reported $28 million a year then from MasterCard, Coca-Cola, Nokia and other corporate clients. And that was before he started making ads for Viagra.
That prompted a nationwide rehashing of the most unseemly episode of his career: In 1991, Sandra Regina surfaced and claimed she was Pelé's child by way of his short relationship, at 18, with a Santos chambermaid. Pelé contested paternity until DNA tests and a court upheld the claim in 1996. When Sandra Regina died of breast cancer, his family sent a wreath and said Pelé was praying at home.
The chances of that making the cut seemed slim. But you had to admit: The man had pretty much nailed it.