“It felt like me against the whole world.” That was how one Argentinian goalkeeper felt on Brazilian territory, at 11:11pm on 19 November 1969, as he prepared to face a penalty. He was not, however, representing La Albiceleste *against *A Seleção, or a team from south of the border in the Copa Libertadores.
Edgardo Andrada was idolised by the majority of the 65,000-plus at the Maracana. His Vasco da Gama side were drawing 1-1 at home to Santos, with 12 minutes remaining in a decisive match in the Robertão (a precursor to the Campeonato Brasileiro).
“The noise was deafening,” he recalled. “Even the Vasco supporters were against me.”
Puzzled? Well, a mythological man was sizing up a milestone kick.
Pele was on 999 career goals. The result was subsidiary to an ebullient audience. They had turned up to witness a 29-year-old become the first player in history to reach the four-figure mark by his own personal count, and Pele had employed his age-defying pace to win the penalty with which came a crack at it.
“The majority of spectators in the Maracana wanted to see the goal, but the Vasco players did everything they could to prevent it,” Pele recalled. “They wound me up, kept telling me it wouldn’t happen that day. But it was destined to be. Something had to happen to give me the chance, and it did.”
Pele announced his retirement in 1974 but in 1975 accepted a $7 million contract to play with the New York Cosmos. He led the Cosmos to a league championship in 1977 and did much to promote soccer in the United States. On October 1, 1977, in Giants Stadium, he played his last professional game in a Cosmos match against his old team Santos.
During his long career, Pele scored 1,282 goals in 1,363 games. In 1978, Pele was given the International Peace Award and in 1993 he was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame. Since retiring, he has acted as an international ambassador for his sport and has worked with the United Nations and UNICEF to promote peace and international reconciliation through friendly athletic competition.