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Q+A Pelé

The 64-year-old is the subject of Pelé Eterno, which made its U.S. premiere at the Museum of Modern Art in July.


SI: The film begins, "The most famous man in the entire world is the Brazilian Pelé." Do you feel that's true?

Pelé: No, I don't feel it. I am sure! Pelé is connected with the biggest sport in the world. Football is the biggest family in the world.

SI: What is it like seeing footage of yourself so young?

Pelé: I get moments where I cry because I don't remember some goals. The first goal I scored in Maracana [a stadium in Rio de Janeiro] against Argentina, I was 16. I said, "My God, where did you find this goal? I am not this guy. This is a short guy, a very thin guy."

SI: How was playing in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden?

Pelé: Amazing. It was my first time traveling outside of Brazil. We were at a hotel that had a beautiful lake. And all the girls were topless! I was 17 years old, and I ran past hiding my eyes. I didn't want to look because it's not good for training. [Laughs.]

SI: You've said that if you were not a soccer player, you would be an actor.

Pelé: Yes, but when I was young I wanted to be a pilot. Now I travel more than any pilot.

SI: Is there a person you haven't met on your travels, but would like to?

Pelé: Of the people I've met, I was struck with Martin Luther King. And Nelson Mandela. I had the opportunity to stay with him. But the one who I did not have the opportunity to talk with was Gandhi. I am sorry I did not meet him.

SI: How do you feel about getting older?

Pelé: I have a joke about aging. I was born in a town called Three Hearts. I tell everybody I am a man of three hearts. That means I'm going to last 200 years. Be prepared to follow me. --Richard Deitsch