PELE almost always refers to football as a beautiful game. By the time he made his final bow from the professional circuit in 1977, the world was quite convinced that this beautiful footballer had enhanced the beauty of the game to such an extent that Edson Arantes Do Nascimento went on to become the most well-known figure on Planet Earth.

So much so that the headline in a London newspaper the day after Brazil won the World Cup for the third time, beating Italy in 1970, read: "How do you spell Pele? G-O-D"

Pele, who was at his peak in the 1970 World Cup, tries to score after having headed in Brazil's opening goal in its 4-1 win over Italy in the final.-ALLSPORT

Two distinct statements, one his and the other by Italian Tarcisio Burgnich, give one some idea of this Brazilian genius' skills.

After the 1970 final in Mexico, Burgnich, on whom fell the task of manning Pele, said, "I told myself he's made of skin and bones, just like anyone else; but I was wrong."

In his book, My Life and The Beautiful Game, Pele wrote, "I go much faster than those who run without thinking." Well, Pele could out-run, out-dribble and out-think anyone... anytime.

Apart from his amazing football skills, two other aspects stand out. One is the loyalty factor. In a career that spanned over 20 years, in which he scored more than 1000 goals, Pele interestingly played for just two clubs: his beloved Santos till 1974, and after coming out of retirement, for New York Cosmos till 1977.

The other is sportsmanship. In Mexico '70, England goalkeeper Gordon Banks came up with what is called as the 'Save of the Century' in that heated Group phase battle. In fact, Pele was screaming 'goal!' when he met the header. But the man that he is, Pele ran up to Banks and patted his shoulder in appreciation.

Born on October 23, 1940, Pele was spotted by former Brazilian international Waldemar de Brito at the age of 11. He made his senior Santos debut at 15, international debut at 16 when he came as substitute to score against Argentina, and exploded on the World Cup scene in Sweden '58, making his debut against Russia and winning the first of his three World Cup titles.

An injury early in the Chile '62 edition rendered him hors de combat. In '66, he was subject to such harsh tackling that he threatened never to play in another World Cup as he did not want to end his life as an invalid.

Mexico '70 saw Pele at his peak. His opening goal in the final against the Azzurris when he rose above the Italian defence with an extraordinary jump and headed in Rivelino's long, high cross from the left was an astonishing one and figures eighth in the top-10 list chosen by past and present footballers when polled a couple of years ago.

An example of his inventive play would be his attempt in the contest against the Czechs when, noticing that the rival goalie was well off his goal-line, Pele, from just inside his own half, lofted the ball over the goalie's head. That it bounced inches wide of the goal is another matter. What an attempt it was nevertheless!


IT was the defining moment, really, and it came in the quarterfinal against England in Chile '62, as Brazil marched towards its second consecutive World Cup title.

It was a corner kick, and Garrincha, at five feet, seven inches, outjumped the six feet, two inch Maurice Norman to head the ball in.

Christened Manoel dos Santos Francisco, Garrincha perfected the trampoline jump as well as the 'banana shot.' Referred to as 'The Little Bird', Garrincha as a winger was a magical dribbler who swerved and accelerated in a manner no other could.

Garrincha, the little bird, was known for the trampoline jump and the banana shot.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

Crippled since childhood, he was, nevertheless, blessed with unbelievable gifts. His ball control was such that in the '58 World Cup in Sweden he held the ball against five encircling Russians!

Surprising as it may seem, Garrincha, though chosen for the '58 squad, was given a break only after his teammates, especially his Botafogo club-mate Nilton Santos, urged manager Vincente Feola into it.

Garrincha went on to make a mark in the edition. In the final, in fact, he left the host's defence in a trance twice while Vava converted both.

The next edition undoubtedly belonged to him. In '62, Amarildo proved a worthy substitute for Pele, whose muscle injury in the contest against the Czechs ruled him out of the remaining part of the competition, but it was Garrincha who was the lynchpin of the Brazilian attack - a veritable thorn in every opposition defence.

After he had left Norman in a daze, Garrincha's long-ranger rebounded off Springett's chest which Vava converted with ease. Then came his swerving banana shot which bamboozled the goalkeeper and swung into the goal.

Garrincha won the semifinal contest against Chile on his own. First he beat Escutti with a 20-yard left-footer and then headed in Zagalo's corner with a trampoline jump. The match became heated towards the end. So much so that Garrincha, irritated by being kicked, kicked back at Rojas and was sent out. In the event, his participation in the final was in doubt. He got off with a caution, though, and played.

Garrincha faced a period of turmoil in the following years. First a cartilage operation, then his marriage break up, followed by a dispute with the Income Tax authorities. He bowed out after the 1966 World Cup defeat against Hungary in Group III - the only time he was on a losing Brazilian side.

Thereafter he had stints with Corinthians, Flamengo, Bangu and Portuguesa Santista and played for a while in France and Italy and a couple of matches for the Brazilian club Olaria before retiring. He passed away in 1983.


IT was inevitably mayhem when the likes of Vava, Garrincha, Pele got their acts together. And so it was in the World Cups of '58 in Sweden and '62 in Chile as the samba style of soccer dominated an era in which each country possessed world class players.

Vava holds the distinction of being one of the only three in history to have scored goals in two World Cup title contests: the others being countryman Pele and West German star Paul Breitner.

Edvaldo Izdio Neto - or simply Vava - was a key member of the Brazil teams of the late 50s and early 60s and his best came in World Cups.

His indomitable spirit, coupled with strength and goal-scoring prowess, won him the nick-name 'Chest of Steel'. In fact, he won the tag the 'Lion of Brazil' when, in '58, he continued to play against the Soviet Union in spite of a wounded foot.

Born in Recife in the rural state of Pernambuco, Vava played for his home-town club at 15. He joined the Rio de Janerio club Vasco da Gama two years later, scored a goal on debut that won the State championship in 1952 and later that year played for the country in the Helsinki Olympics. He helped the club win the state title in 1956 and the Rio-Sao Paulo Trophy in 1958.

Vava was lethal in '58. Ironically, coach Feola had been urged by players to move Vava to the middle from his usual position of inside left and get Pele to the left flank in the crucial group game against the Soviets. Vava scored a goal against France in the semifinals and two against host Sweden in the final.

An instinctive goal-scorer, Vava possessed a fierce shot and was simply unstoppable in Chile '62. He scored a goal in the quarterfinals against England, pumped in two in the semifinals against Chile and yet another in the final against the Czechs.

In the intervening years, Vava was transferred to Atletico Madrid and was part of the club's successful King's Cup (the Spanish FA Cup) squads in 1960 and '61. He returned home to play for Palmeiras in 1961 and won another championship medal two years later.

Thereafter, Vava played in Mexico and the United States before ending his career with the Rio club Portuguesa in 1967. His ties with Vasco da Gama remained strong till the end. In fact, he had also assisted the club financially.

Vava managed teams in Brazil, Mexico and Spain and was assistant coach of the Brazilian team in the 1982 World Cup. Later he was in-charge of the Qatar National side. He passed away in January, 2002, at the age of 67.


A HIGHLY feared player in his time, Ferenc Puskas is remembered as an exceptional schemer and extraordinary goal-scorer rolled into one.

He is possibly the only footballer to have represented two countries in the international arena. For native Hungary, Puskas scored 83 goals in 84 internationals and orchestrated the nation's unbeaten run of success of 28 victories and four draws that stretched to four years - from June 1950 till the final of the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland where the Germans recovered to clinch the issue 3-2.

Ferenc Puskas' exceptional scheming ability made him an extraordinary goal-scorer.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

Short, stocky and barrel-chested, Puskas' exploits were accentuated by the fact that he used only his left-foot and couldn't really head the ball.

Born in Budapest on April 2, 1927, "Ocsi" (means little man), as he was known, joined suburban club Kispest and graduated to its first team at the age of 16. Most of this club's players were roped in when the military club Honved was founded and went on to become the inventory of Hungarian talent.

Puskas made his international debut in 1945, in the 5-2 victory over Austria. The gold in the '52 Helsinki Olympics was a highpoint. The side then broke the home record of England with that memorable 6-3 victory at Wembley and reasserted its supremacy with a 7-1 verdict in the return game in Budapest. The team came to be known as the 'Magnificent Magyars' and Puskas the 'Galloping Major' for his Army rank as he played for a military team.

An ankle injury in the group match against West Germany laid Puskas low for most of the remaining part of the competition, including the 'Battle of Berne' quarterfinal against Brazil and the semifinals against Uruguay.

But he lit up the final with his magnificence, even if hampered by the injury. He unleashed a powerful left-footer as Hungary was up 2-0 in no time. That the Germans came back is another matter altogether. Nevertheless, had only Puskas' long-ranger not been disallowed as 'off-side' - a decision that is till this day argued - it would have been the equaliser, and the tale might well have been different.

Puskas made four international appearances for his adopted country, Spain, after he went into exile with his family after the people's uprising back home in 1956.

He forged a formidable combination with Alfredo di Stefano for Real Madrid from the 1958/59 season and the club supporters nicknamed him "Canoncito Pum", meaning the booming cannon.

Puskas emerged top-scorer four times in the Spanish league, helped his team win six domestic titles and three European Cups, highlighted by his four goals in Madrid's 7-3 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt in the Cup final in '60. He played his last international for Spain in the '62 World Championship in Chile.

After retirement Puskas tried his hand in coaching. He in fact had a stint with the Hungarian National squad.