Our Tribute to Pelé—The King of Soccer and the Champion of Children’s Causes – Railway Children India

Our Tribute to Pelé—The King of Soccer and the Champion of Children’s Causes

Illustration by Lina Habib Dabbar

The frenzy of the FIFA World Cup 2022 had only just settled down when the news about the demise of Edson Arantes do Nascimento, aka Pelé, made headlines. It didn’t take long for football fans to flood social media platforms with tributes to the legendary athlete, whose outstanding career was marked by three World Cup wins and countless goals. Beyond this spectacular career, however, is an inspiring story of triumph over the cycle of poverty with sheer hard work.

In our tribute to the “King of Soccer,” we attempt to shed light on his humble background, which not only set him apart as a humble megastar but also became a motivation for him to champion causes and back charitable endeavours for children from low-income communities.

Tough times set the stage for a strong player

Christened after the innovator of the light bulb, Thomas Edison, Edson Arantes do Nascimento was born in an underprivileged family. His father, Dondinho, was a soccer player himself, playing for local clubs. Dondinho had to bid adieu to his career after a leg injury, but he turned to coaching his son. Despite the dire conditions at home, Pelé played passionately, even if it meant having to kick a stuffed sock or a newspaper tied with a string as humble replacements of a real football. It is widely known that Pelé could not complete his education due to abject poverty in his household.

Pelé went on to build an unparalleled sporting career despite this gap in formal education. However, this did not stop him from recognizing the value and need of education in the lives of children globally.

Growing and giving back go hand-in-hand

Pelé’s contribution in bringing glory to his country was rewarded with the position of Minister of Sport of Brazil. Soon after, he was also appointed as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. Pelé was the recipient of many accolades and associations with global organizations. While he became a part of countless initiatives and the pioneer of anti-corruption laws with these positions, it was through the Pelé Foundation that majority of his philanthropic initiatives reached the masses and the intended stakeholders—children and young adults.

A slew of re initiatives begin

The foremost program to emerge from this organization was “Pencils of Promise” an organization dedicated to “reshaping the landscape of education” for children from low-income communities. In recent years, he inaugurated his latest football centre in Rio de Janeiro, with the mission of providing all the help and support to talented young footballers of the country.

Values created the legend; philanthropy will create more

These laudable efforts form a small part of Pelé’s far-reaching efforts in the field of education, more importantly, however, they represent the values held dear by the sporting legend. Outside the field, he was an ardent proponent of every child’s right to education, with himself standing out as an exemplar of the urgent need for equal opportunities for all.

When one zooms out of Pelé’s massive sporting personality, there lies a young boy who scrambled out of his situation with the help of a sport he loved. Sports come teeming with invaluable life lessons aplenty, which combined with the right support and a well-rounded education can elevate every child’s life, producing more legends like Pelé.

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