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Pele

Born October 23, 1940, Pele is widely regarded as the greatest soccer player of all time. Known during his career as "The Black Pearl," Pele was a member of three Brazilian World Cup-champion teams, and is still the most successful league goal-scorer in the world according to the IFFHS (541 league goals).

He was revered by his contemporaries, but since retiring 1977, Pele continues to be lauded by players, coaches, journalists and others. One of TIME magazine's "100 most influential people of the 20th century," he was also voted "Player of the Century" by the IFFHS, IOC, and France Football. Brazilian attacking midfielder Zico, who represented Brazil for three FIFA World Cups, perhaps stated it best: "This debate about the player of the century is absurd. There's only one possible answer: Pele. He's the greatest player of all time, and by some distance I might add".

In his homeland of Brazil, Pele is hailed as a national hero not only for his accomplishments in football, but also for his outspoken support of policies to improve the social conditions of the poor. And in the years after his football career, Pele has been a worldwide ambassador for football, and has used his iconic status to bring global attention to humanitarian issues such as hunger and the environment.

To many, his accomplishments on the soccer field will never be equaled, and virtually all great athletes in the sport are measured against the Brazilian who once made the world stop to watch his transcendent play.