Pelé: The King of Soccer by Eddy Simon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
First Published: October 24th, 2017
Publisher: First Second Books
Recommended Age: 10+
Genres & Themes: Graphic Biography, Sports, Soccer, Coming of Age
Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known to his schoolmates as Pele, grew up in poverty in the Sao Paulo region of Brazil. He was too poor to afford a real soccer ball, so he played with a ball of newspaper tied together with string. Yet he dominated the youth leagues and signed his first professional soccer contract at the age of fifteen. Within two years he was celebrated internationally, when he led Brazil to victory at the world cup. Known by his fans as -O Rei- (The King), Pele is widely regarded as the greatest soccer player of all time. But he’s more than just an athlete: he also traveled the world as goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. Pele is the living symbol of a sport he dubbed -the beautiful game—a game that brings people together regardless of race or nationality.
I’m not a soccer fan. I did play a little when I was younger with my brother, and I enjoyed it, but only because I didn’t play fair and kept hurting my brother in the shins.
And yet, he never, ever complained. I think he liked playing period, whatever the consequences.
So because, as you can see, I don’t know much about playing soccer or the soccer players themselves, I had no idea who Pelé was before starting this graphic biography. But I enjoy learning more about people who make great influences, so I was curious about his life.
In this book is illustrated Pelé’s path to glory, with many obstacles along the way. The focus is on his professional career. His family and loved ones are featured from time to time, but not enough to say that his personal life is very detailed.
Though I didn’t expect to learn everything about the people around him, so I’m okay with that, and if you are too, there shouldn’t be a problem in that area.
The true story is in chronological order (thank goodness) so it’s fairly clear, although it does get more complicated towards the end, when we get to his adult life, because there are suddenly new political and economical factors at play.
The main problem for me, however, was that I felt disconnected from Pelé himself. The narrator is not him, so we really are just a couple of outsiders peering at Pelé’s life without being invited. That’s how I felt most of the time, anyway.
Perhaps I would have felt differently if it had been narrated from the first-person point of view. It’s a guess.
Would still recommend it to fans!
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