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Pele Remains Foremost Ambassador of the World's Game

The fact that most Americans have heard of Pele speaks volumes about his soccer legacy.

Widely acknowledged as the greatest soccer player ever, Pele's influence on the game is still felt today.

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"Pele is to soccer what Shakespeare is to English literature," one writer once commented.

He won three World Cups with Brazil, scored 1,284 goals (second most in history behind fellow Brazilian Arthur Friedereich, who scored 1,329 from 1912 to 1937), and the number he wore (No. 10) has become a symbol - it is usually reserved for the most creative player on each team.

In the United States, he largely legitimized a sport that many had looked on with disdain. He played three seasons for the New York Cosmos in the now-defunct North American Soccer League in the mid-1970s. His amazing dribbling skills and outrageous goals attracted crowds of more than 60,000 fans.

Since retiring from the Cosmos in 1977, he has become an ambassador for the sport, appearing at marquee events like the World Cup and last weekend's F.A. Cup in London. In 1995, he was named the Minister of Sports for Brazil - a position created for him.

And this wasn't the first time Brazil had gone out of its way for Pele. After Pele led Brazil to its first World Cup victory in 1958, European clubs offered Pele record contracts to come play for them. But the Congress of Brazil declared him an official national treasure and prohibited anyone from taking him from their shores.

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