Pelé: Birth of a Legend


Pelé: Birth of a Legend

Written by 
Jeff Zimbalist, Michael Zimbalist

Director Jeff Zimbalist, Michael Zimbalist
Vincent D'Onofrio, Rodrigo Santoro, Diego Boneta

Category    Goal Setting,Leadership      


IFC Films



Language English
107 min

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This is an inspiring and educating film, with many insightful moments about the development of a gifted child into one of the greatest football players of all time.

Born in 1940, Pele, at the age of 17, remains the youngest player ever to score in and win the World cup. He is actually the only player in history to win three World Cups. He was declared an official “National Treasure” and was named “Athlete of the Century” by the International
Olympics Committee.

The film starts with the devastating to the Brazilian people reference to the loss of the 1950 World Cup that they hosted and began as favourites. A little boy at the time, we see Pele, watching his father hide his face in despair and disappointment as the match ends, taking a quiet oath to bring the cup back to Brazil. It is enduring spirit and determination that will have to accompany him to his future success.

At the slums of Sao Paolo, Pele and his friends will have to ‘create’ a ball they can afford, out of adults socks filled with rags and crumbled newspaper, and play barefooted. They will in fact organise an amateurs football team they will name the “Shoeless Ones”. It is suggested in the film, that in addition to Pele’s natural talent, it was street football that developed his versatility. Pele’s biographer even explained that playing on unpaved street took some skill just to keep balance on the surface and to control a “ball” that changed weight and shape every time it was kicked, or landed in a puddle. Difficulties shaped his character as well as his skills. Watching football become an extension of himself, by bringing some of himself to the sport and later profession, we also see Pele turning the sport into an art and making it his art. It seems inevitable to attain an originality and an advantage in what he does without passion. In the streets of Sao Paolo he forms his own ginga style – ‘ginga’ commonly referred to as the Portuguese word to define their brand of soccer – or ‘beautiful game’ as he is said to have coined the phrase. The hero’s father, himself an old professional football player for some time, practices with him the ginga style – what his coach later disapproves of as allegedly ‘street soccer’. Throughout his personal uncertainties and anxieties, the role of Pele’s supportive father and mentor proves pivotal. He would say ‘you can’t let the doubt get to you’ , ‘when I finally got my shot I was filled with doubt and it ended my career’, ‘you can show us what happens when you have the courage to show us who you truly are or you can get on that train and we will never know”.

Pele was recruited into the Santos Football Club in Sao Paolo, and worked his way up through the various junior teams, and finally to Brazil’s national team. Acting as a leader and role model to his team for his competence, integrity and attainment, he inspires his team members to work in unity and respect to the competing team, in contrast to the racism and prejudice he endured as a child. He can appreciate the power of a team, because from his early years, this taught him friendship, loss, disappointment, triumph and a sense of belongingness he could always cherish. The film itself although not impressive, is a decent display of this legend’s trail of professional accomplishment and personal self-attainment.


Contributed by: Andria Antoniadou