This powerful verse from the third chapter of the Bhagavad Gita on karma yoga loosely translates to, ‘Whatever a great man does people tend to follow’.
Very few people of our time tend to inspire an entire nation, but if there was someone who inspired the entire world with his football skills it was Pelé.
Pelé, also known as Edson Arantes do Nascimento, was a Brazilian professional footballer widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. He is often called the "King of Football" and is listed by FIFA as one of the greatest players. During his playing career, he won three FIFA World Cups with Brazil, the most ever by any player.
Pelé's career began in 1956 with Santos FC, a professional football club in Brazil. He quickly established himself as a star player and helped lead the team to many victories, including two Copa Libertadores titles. In 1958, at the age of just 17, he made his debut for the Brazilian national team and played in his first World Cup in Sweden. In the 1962 World Cup, Pelé scored 2 goals in the final and Brazil became World Champions for the 2nd time. In 1970, he led Brazil to their third World Cup win and also scored his 1000th goal. He retired from professional football in 1977, after a successful career spanning 21 years.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna teaches that the key to a fulfilling life is to work tirelessly and selflessly, without attachment to the fruits of one's labour. This is similar to how Pelé approached his football career. He worked tirelessly to improve his skills and was dedicated to his team and his country, always putting the team's success above his own personal glory. This selfless attitude helped him to achieve great success, both individually and as part of a team.
In his words, ‘Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do’.
Additionally, the Bhagavad Gita also teaches that one should always strive to improve oneself and to overcome obstacles in the pursuit of one's goals. Pelé's constant drive to improve his skills and his determination to succeed, even in the face of adversity, are clear examples of this principle in action. There have been several instances when the champion has been grievously wounded on the field, only to return in the next match, stronger and fiercer than ever.
While Pelé is a sports legend, his approach to his career and his attitude towards success have much in common with the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita. Both emphasize the importance of hard work, selflessness, and the pursuit of personal improvement.
After his retirement from football, Pelé took up to working for causes such as children’s education and ending racism. As an Afro Brazilian player, he was listed by FIFA as their global ambassador against racism.
Football and inspiring everyone around was something that came very naturally to him. His final act before his last goodbye was inspiring a Brazilian footballer to continue playing for his country. With the passing of Pelé, it is truly the end of an era in world football.