Wednesday, March 28, 2018
Pele: The King of Soccer, writtenby Eddy Simon and illustrated by Vincent Brascaglia. First Second, Raincoast. 2017. $22.99 ages 10 and up
With World Cup Soccer set to begin in Russia in three weeks, the world's sports enthusiasts will be glued to the television and listening to stories of players, teams, other World Cup championships. Surely, we will hear stories of Pele, who is considered one of the greatest athletes in sports history; at least among those whose greatness is long past.
This graphic novel that follows him from his early days through his storied career will surely be welcome in classrooms and families where soccer is highly regarded. He grew up poor in Brazil and found his way to the pros at 15, playing in his first World Cup at 17. He dominated the sport for 20 years, scoring 1,284 goals and playing in 3 World Cups. What a career!
This is strong biography that does not stick to Pele's playing career. It allows readers a look at many aspects of his life - how fame changed him, his separation from his family at such a young age, his limited education, and how time given to travel and training took precedence over all else. There was much he could not control, politically and in terms of the game itself. It made for many complications in his life.
He loved to play soccer with children, and would seek them out wherever he was. He needed the distraction from many of the other difficulties in his life. Always the big smile for his fans. he was appreciative of the talent he had and was willing to teach new skills. But, he was also determined to make a statement about the politics that plagued his country. There were problems along the way; they are presented in clear text and accompanied by fascinating artwork.
All in all, this novel presents a well-rounded account of Pele's career, the mistakes he made, the goodness that he shared with the worldwide soccer community.