By 90Min
March 09, 2018

It has never been seen since, and will probably never happen again. A 17-year-old leading his team to World Cup glory seems phenomenal enough in isolation, but the context in which the post-pubescent Pele managed the feat feels almost unwritable, almost unfathomable in truth.

Eight years prior to the 1958 success, a nine-year-old Edson Arantes do Nascimento - as he was more lengthily known - sat alongside his father in anticipation as they settled down at home to watch the 1950 World Cup final against Uruguay, their hearts full of hope. 

Agonisingly for the nation, Brazil lost. The hosts succumbed to the Uruguayans inside the Maracana after presumptuously, and rather arrogantly, parading around the place as if the trophy had already been secured before the game. 

Pele and his father were inconsolable following the defeat. The nine-year-old isolated himself in his father's room, tears streaming down his face, where a large picture of Jesus adorned the wall. 

"Why has this happened? ”Why has it happened to us? Why, Jesus? Why are we being punished?” You know, if I’d been there I wouldn’t have let Brazil lose the Cup. If I’d been there, Brazil would have won.” 

The youngster, a complete stranger to this type of emotion at such a young age, found resurgence after his conversation with the inanimate but inspirational image as well as courage that defied his years. 


He returned to his weeping father and said sternly, "One day, I'll win you the World Cup."

It may have been easy for Pele Senior to dismiss that claim as merely a sense of juvenile retaliation to the event - a coping method perhaps - but the child's religious faith as well as his own ability were immeasurable. 


Eight years on from this formative incident, Pele earned the chance to come good on his promise to his father when he was selected by coach Vicente Feola to represent the Selecao in Sweden. A knee injury left the Santos star sidelined for the first two games of the tournament, threatening to hamper the 17-year-old's dream, but his teammates pulled through for him. 

A win over Austria followed by a 0-0 draw with a depleted England side preceded Pele's introduction to the tournament and the teenager finally made his first appearance against the Soviet Union in a 2-0 win where he assisted the second goal in the final group game. 

Pele didn't score, but he saved his best form for the knockout stages as Brazil topped their group. A quarter final tie against Wales beckoned and the world quickly became aware of the 17-year-old's talents. 

Having scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win over the Welsh, Brazil's hopes primarily rested on the young man's shoulders despite their existing abundance of talent within their ranks. The Selecao had an embarrassment of riches, but when it really mattered, it was this young man who had spent the summer in tears eight years ago who truly stepped up. 

A semi final tie against France beckoned. The tournament's eventual top scorer with 13 goals in Just Fontaine posed the biggest threat to the Brazilians and was expected to cause them problems, but with the score tied at 2-2 in the second half, Pele exploded into life. 

A 22 minute hattrick left everyone inside the Rasunda Stadium speechless. A child had just dispatched one of the best teams at the tournament to put his country into the final of the greatest tournament on Earth; everybody was salivating as they imagined what was to come.

Before a ball was even kicked Pele had broken a record. He became the youngest player to appear in a World Cup final at 17 years and 249 days, as Sweden stood in Brazil's way of a first ever World Cup success; as well as the chance for Pele to fulfil his promise to his father. 

Let's break the chronology for a second and fast forward to an incident in 1962. Pele and his teammates were flying to Chile for their first World Cup as world champions when turbulence struck the aircraft. 

It shook violently as the squad's freshly served dinners came careering off their plates, and with the Munich air disaster of 1958 fresh in their minds, the Brazil team were fearing for their lives. Amongst the frenzied cabin full of panicked faces and prayers, however, Pele sat unmoved. 

His teammates looked at him in disbelief, intent of making him realise the gravity of the situation as they attempted to instil some urgency into him. The turbulence passed after a period and raucousness turned to relief, but Pele's calmness tells you all you need to know about the man. 

“I believe in God. If we are going to die, then so be it", Pele later wrote about the incident, and it is this confidence and acceptance of the path God carves out for him that has allowed him to direct his motivation so effectively towards his aspirations. 

That conversation with the poster of Jesus in his father's bedroom back in 1950 must've been at the forefront of Pele's mind as he took to the pitch against Sweden. Admittedly, the performance that followed can only be explained by a God-like presence in possession of his body such was the magic he produced on the world's biggest stage. 

In front of an attendance of 50,000, Pele stole the show. His first goal, in which he flicked the ball over the defender and volleyed into the net, was selected as one of the best goals in World Cup history. 

Sweden's Sigvard Parling later declared: "When Pelé scored the fifth goal in that final, I have to be honest and say I felt like applauding". 

Pele added another goal to his extraordinary first to dispatch the Swedes by five goals to two, and the event proved to be too much for the wonderkid after the full time whistle sounded. The 17-year-old collapsed and had to be resuscitated by his teammate Garrincha, but after realising the enormity of his achievement, a joyous mood ensued as the entire nation came together to celebrate their maiden World Cup victory. 

Despite missing the first two games, Pele finished as the tournament's second top scorer behind Fontaine with six goals in just four games. A country who had suffered eight years of hurt had seen their woes transpire wildly into delirium as their prodigal son made the tournament his own. Spurred on by his father's tears as well as his own battles against his poverty-ridden upbringing in the Favelas; a star was born. 

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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)