Before pundits and fans debated whether Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo was the greatest player to ever kick a ball, the man who held the name Pele was often regarded as the best. Often ranked one of if not the most significant player in football’s history alongside his Argentine counterpart Diego Maradona, Pele’s exploits for Brazil will no doubt be reevaluated as his home nation attempt to win the 2022 edition of the World Cup in Qatar. On November 19, 1969, the legend netted a decisive goal that helped define his career.
Pele, who played for Santos and New York Cosmos during his illustrious professional days, scored his 1,000th goal on November 19, 1969 at Rio de Janeiro’s magnificent Maracana stadium, which hosted the 2014 World Cup final.
His strike came for his beloved Santos in a game against local side Vasco de Gama, whose fans gave Pele a standing ovation after the goal was scored, with 80,000 rival fans uniting to celebrate one heroic legend.
Pele was already a national hero, having won two World Cups for Brazil in 1958 and 1962, and would less than a year later again clinch the title, with a team that is often dubbed the greatest ever.
The star was still only 29 years old when he scored. His overall tally is often questioned, but at the end of his career, Pele is reported to have scored 1,279 goals in 1,363 games, including friendlies, which is a Guinness World Record.
However, when it comes to official matches, Pele is third on the all-time goals list, with 767 strikes in 831 games. Here, he is behind overall leader Czech striker Josef Bican, who netted 805 goals in 530 games, and compatriot and fellow World Cup winner Romario, who ended his career with 772 goals in 994 games.
Pele’s nickname came during his childhood, though in his native Portugese it has no actual meaning. As a teenager, he honed his skills with Bauru, a minor league club, in Sao Paulo state, before moving to Santos in 1956.
Two years later, he’d be lining up at the World Cup, leading the line as a 17-year-old, and scoring two goals in a brilliant final as Brazil beat Sweden to the global crown.
After their third win in 1970, Brazil were given permission to keep the Jules Rimet Trophy as a sign of their dominance of world football at the time.
JUST IN: Most iconic World Cup moments of all time – including Maradona in 1986
“I have never and will never find difference between the pass from Pele to Carlos Alberto in the final of the World Cup in 1970 and the poetry of the young Rimbaud. There is in each of these human manifestations an expression of beauty which touches us and gives us a feeling of eternity.”
Ex-Italy defender Giacinto Facchetti recalled his encounter with Pele: “We went up together to head a ball. I was taller, had a better impulse. When I came back down, I looked up in astonishment.
“Pele was still there, in the air, heading that ball. It was like he could stay suspended for as long as he wanted to.”
Meanwhile, Just Fontaine, often hailed France’s greatest striker, and who was the top scorer at the 1958 World Cup, simply said: “When I saw Pele play, it made me feel I should hang up my boots.”