I’ve been meaning to write about this for some time, but I’ve neglected to because I’ve haven’t known how to approach it. I’m hesitant to say anything bad about Pelé, because he seems to have a good amount of humility and a God-fearing spirit. So I’ll be as positive as possible.

Last August, on a blog called the talks which posts interviews with interesting famous people, they presented an interview with Pelé. This name is generally known by all who are (1) Non-American or (2) Interested in Sports, but if you don’t fall into either of those camps, I can tell you that Pelé is Edson Arantes do Nascimento, considered by many to be the best football (soccer) player who ever lived.

As he starts the interview, Pelé takes it, surprisingly and interestingly, in the direction of the role of God in human success.

Pelé, when you are the best at something how hard is it not to get arrogant about it?

I used to tease the other kids because I played better than them. Then my father said, “Come here. Don’t do this with the kids, because God gave you the gift to play football. You didn’t do anything. This was a present from God. You have to respect people, because it is important to be a good man, a good person. From now on, you must be this example.”

I find this to be a helpful answer. Your skill at playing is a gift from God, so you shouldn’t be proud of your success. You should mindful of this when you consider other people who don’t have this success.

But this answer wasn’t completely satisfying to the interviewer, who must have a fairly secular mindset. So he challenges Pelé on it.

I am not sure if it was only God who gave you that gift. Being at the top of the game must be hard work as well.

Of course the work is very, very important. That is exactly what my father meant: God gave you the gift to play football, but this is a present. You must respect people and work hard to be in shape. And I used to train very hard. When the others players went to the beach after training, I was there kicking the ball. Another thing I say is, if I am a good player, if I have a gift from God but I don’t have the physical condition to run on the field what am I going to do?

I think this was a fairly polite way to respond to either (a) the possibility that the interviewer is an atheist and feels sharing credit with God is silly, or (b) the interviewer’s lack of understanding of what it means to receive a gift well. Pelé is saying that the best and most honorable way to receive a gift is to use it well. Again, this is helpful and wise.

But then the interviewer dove deeper.

Did you ever feel like your abilities were super-human?

No, we are all human beings. I have to trust something that gives me power…

Very good so far, but Pelé continues.

… I have to believe in something, but in my career I have a lot of moments I cannot explain with God. We went to Africa and we stopped the war in Africa because the people went to see Pelé play. They stopped the war. Just God can’t explain that. I don’t know why – it is impossible to know why – but they stopped the war. When we finished the game and we left they continue to fight.


I’d like to think that the post mis-transcribed these words. I’ve actually asked them to post the full audio for the interview (no luck as of yet). Because if he really meant this, I have difficulty getting my head around it. It sounds like he thinks it took something more powerful than God to bring this about. Does he think that God is unable to stop a war? Or that God would not do such a thing?

No. God could, if he chose to, change the hearts of thousands of people in such a way that they would stop warring. He might even use a soccer game to do it.

I wish I could have a more satisfying end for this post. But for my money, I think Pelé didn’t really say (or at least mean) that it would take more than God to do this.

What do you think?

Update: I just added another post about Pelé over at my Dad Blog. It’s largely the same content but from a parent’s perspective.