Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé, was a wonder to watch with the ball at his feet. A phenomenon since his early teen years, "O Rei" (or "The King") became the only player in history to win three World Cups, crowning his native Brazil in 1958, 1962, and 1970, a record that may never be broken.
But what does the king of soccer and Portland have in common? And why did we honor him at half time during the 2023 season opener on February 27th?
In the latter days of his professional playing career, O Rei spent his final three professional seasons playing with the New York Cosmos of the United States’ NASL, a stint that would culminate in Soccer Bowl ‘77. The host city? Soccer City, USA. Pelé would perform against Portland’s eternal rivals, the Seattle Sounders before a crowd of 35,000 raucous fans at Civic Stadium (now Providence Park). Come the final whistle, he would be crowned North American champion after a 2-1 score in favor of the Cosmos, adding one more piece of silverware to his already highly decorated trophy cabinet.
An event forever etched into Portland lore, and immortalized by two famous photos; one of Pelé jogging onto the field past a banner that read “Welcome to Soccer City, USA”, and the other of O Rei basking in triumph being hoisted above the crowd with the south end and MAC club visible in the background.
Pele died on December 29, 2022. As the world mourns his loss, we celebrate Pelé's short, but impactful, playing history at the ground at Goose Hollow, a legacy that will not be forgotten.