Pele sells off his life in the beautiful game

It is a conundrum to challenge even the best of hosts.
What do you give as a gift to a global football icon who
has everything?
When your guest is Brazilian legend Pele, the only player
ever to have won three World Cup winning medals, then
some creative thinking is needed.
As a result the star, full name Edson Arantes do Nascimento,
has been the recipient of an amazing cornucopia of strange
and exotic items from around the world, first in his playing
days, and then as a roving sporting and humanitarian
They include everything from elaborate crowns and
ceremonial daggers, model ships and jet fighters, to more
prosaic clocks, dishes, and freedom-of-the-city keys from
various municipalities.
Now the 75-year-old Fifa Player of the Century is to auction
off all of the sporting and cultural memorabilia he has
accumulated in a lifetime in football.
The sale will take place over three days in London in June,
and covers the six decades from Pele’s signing for Santos as
a 15-year-old in 1956.
‘Difficult decision’
The sale includes unique football items, including his three
World Cup winner’s medals, and a one-off Jules Rimet
trophy made for him after Brazil’s famous triumph in
Mexico in 1970.
That World Cup replica is the most expensive item being
auctioned, with an estimated price tag of £281,000 to
£420,000. The medals are expected to fetch up to £141,000,
and the ball he scored his 1,000th goal with is estimated to
sell for £28,000 to £42,000.
Beverley Hills-based Julien’s Auctions has been chosen to
handle the sale, which also includes personal items such as
old passports and driving licences.
Over the past 12 months Pele has been in hospital for back,
hip and prostate surgery. So is it for health or business
reasons that he is now selling?
“There are many reasons, there are clearly some personal
ones that he alone knows about,” Dan Nelles, sports
specialist at Julien’s Auctions, tells me.
Pele himself says: “It was a difficult decision to make but it
takes a lot to properly care for these artefacts, and I felt I
could do much more good by sharing these items with the
world, as well as helping my causes that are important to
Mr Nelles adds: “He had a lot of the property in storage, and
it wasn’t seeing the light of day, which this auction now
allows. Also, he wasn’t sure what of it his family wanted to
keep, and he didn’t want it [the collection] to fall by the
“And the Pequeno Principe paediatric hospital in Brazil,
which he supports, will receive a proportion.”
International interest
Mr Nelles says the auction house’s “conservative estimate”
is that the sale will make £2.5m to £3.5m, but that “the
bidding would determine the final price”.
“There are so many wildcards in the auction, the Jules Rimet
trophy, his World Cup medals, soccer boots, which means
that ideally we are looking at three times that conservative
estimate, and maybe as much as 10 times.
“There are also a great number of game-worn items from
his career.”
Mr Nelles expects a broad spectrum of bidders from football
fans and collectors, to sporting museums and business
“Although the auction is in London, we will not just be selling
to UK customers, as the auction will be streamed live on our
website for overseas bidders to take part,” he adds.
He says that as well as interest from the obvious football
hotbeds of Europe and South America, there will also be
interest from China, Japan and South Korea, Dubai and
other Gulf states, and the US, Canada and Mexico.
Escape to Victory 1981 movie football boots
A pair of black football boots worn by Pele in the film Escape
to Victory are being auctioned.
In the film he starred alongside Sylvester Stallone and
Michael Caine, as well as England World Cup winning captain
Bobby Moore. They portrayed Nazi prisoners playing a
propaganda football match during World War Two.
Pele is seen near the end of the film wearing these boots as
he scored with a dramatic bicycle kick to equalise for the
Allied team.
“I understand the film has a bit of a cult following in the UK,
and these boots are certainly out of the norm,” says Mr
Nelles. “I think there will be great interest in this highlight
from his film career.”
They are in the auction catalogue with an estimate of $6,000
to $8,000 (£4,000 to £5,500).
American adventure
Pele holds the record as the youngest player ever to play in,
and score in, a World Cup final. He also holds the Guinness
World Record for goals scored in a career with 1,283.
He played for Brazil’s World Cup winning teams of 1958 and
1970, scoring in both finals, and was in the squad which won
in 1962.
With club side Santos he twice won the Copa Libertadores
and Intercontinental Cup. Later in his career he went on to
become the face of “soccer” in the US, as the NASL looked
for a sporting breakthrough in the mid-1970s.
Pele auction highlights
His personal Jules Rimet World Cup replica trophy –
Estimate: $400,000-$600,000
1958, 1962 and 1970 World Cup medals – Estimates:
$100,000-$200,000 each
1,000th goal ball – Estimate: $40,000-$60,000
1977 NY Cosmos NASL Championship ring – Estimate:
L’Equipe Athlete of the Century award – Estimate: $20,000-
1958 Brazil World Champion sash – Estimate: $10,000-
Santos FC game-worn jersey – Estimate: $8,000-$10,000
Santos World Club Champions sash – Estimate: $5,000-
Game-worn New York Cosmos jersey – Estimate: $8,000-
Pele is many people’s choice as the best player of all time.
He remains probably the world’s most recognisable player,
with a Hollywood biopic Birth of A Legend recently
premiering in New York.
Now the enduring proof of that legendary status has been
laid out over more than 1,500 lots, with the auctioneers
saying there should be “something for everyone”.
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