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Pelé: Birth of a Legend (2021)—BrazilPelé: Birth of a Legend (2021)—Brazil

Edson Arantes do Nascimento (born 1940) might be the first sports phenomenon who was known around the world simply by his nickname: Pelé. He was also one of the first athletes who could legitimately claim the moniker of G.O.A.T.—the greatest of all time in his sport (notable comparison: Muhammed Ali was born in 1942). Pelé burst onto the scene in the 1958 World Cup against Sweden. He was barely eighteen, the youngest player ever to play in a World Cup final. He was a prodigy, he was charismatic, he was photogenic, and he was black. Pelé became way more than just a national hero; he was a royalty upon whom an entire country projected its very identity: "he symbolized a victorious and powerful Brazil." At his prime he was the highest paid athlete in the world. All that came at a price. He couldn't leave his house without being mobbed, he burned through three marriages and fathered at least seven children by his wives and girlfriends, he received death threats and rumors of kidnap, and was criticized for his stance toward Brazil's dictatorship. This Netflix Original does something that I thought humanized such a figure. It begins with the absolute madness of Brazilian soccer that surrounded the early, powerful Pelé, and then it cuts to him, now in his early eighties, using a walker and sitting in a wheelchair. I watched this film on Netflix.

Dan Clendenin:

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