What a Sport Wednesday gets a kick today with a visit from Edson Arantes Nacimento, better known as Pelé. He stopped by the Rose Garden on June 28, 1975, to share some pointers on soccer with President Ford.
In a background memo for the meeting Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, himself a soccer fan, noted that Pelé was not only one of the world’s foremost athletes but also the most highly paid at the time. Pelé’s career included several notable distinctions. He started playing for Brazil’s national team at 16, helped his country to achieve three consecutive World Cup victories, and became known for his exceptional playing style and spectacular goals.
Pelé retired from his Brazilian club team Santos in 1974. The following year he signed a two-year contract with the New York Cosmos, a team in the North American Soccer League. For him this career move also served as an opportunity for cultural exchange. His popularity helped to increase awareness and interest in the sport in the United States.
After their meeting President Ford sent Pelé a photo of them together at the White House, inscribed to him “with admiration for one of the ‘all time’ super-stars and with appreciation for your contribution to better understanding between your fine people and mine. Very best wishes.”
Image and text from the Ford Presidential Library Facebook page.
“I was born for soccer, just as Beethoven was born for music.”
President Nixon meeting with Edson “Pele” Arantes do Nacimento, professional Brazilian soccer player and Director of the International Soccer Program. 05/08/1973
Pele is the only soccer player to hold three World Cup championships. He has been honored by the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame, and has served as an ambassador for sports in Brazil, for ecology to the United Nations, for UNESCO, and UNICEF.
It’s National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. This May, we’re featuring fitness and athletes at the White House, Camp David, and more.