The world of football is celebrating: King Pelé turns 80 years old and around 64 years of having changed the history of football forever, but like all great history, this one had a colossal beginning.
The first page of Pelé’s reign was written on September 7, 1956. On that day, a Brazilian holiday, a 15-year-old boy made his debut with the Santos first team in a stadium that does not even exist today and scored his first goal: “ Nobody imagined that he would be the best in the world ”, recalls one of his rivals.
Pelé made his debut in a friendly against Corinthians de Santo André.
Antonio Schank Filho, midfielder for that modest club in the metropolitan region of Sao Paulo, still remembers Edson Arantes do Nascimento’s scoring debut in detail: he suffered first-hand the first mischief of a teenager who was not known by Pelé at the time and yes as ‘Gasolina’, a nickname given to him by the Santos dressing room for his speed.
It was a sunny day and the expectation was maximum at the Américo Guazzelli stadium, today converted into a set of multi-sports facilities. Santos had been invited by the Santo André Mayor’s Office for a friendly on the occasion of Independence Day.
Pelé, who just a month had just signed his first professional contract with the Albinegro club for 6,000 cruzeiros a month, less than two minimum wages, was called up for the match, but started on the bench.
“The star of that Santos was Del Vecchio,” explains Antonio, 85 years old today, at his home in Sao Bernardo do Campo, near Sao Paulo, where he keeps all the reports on that historic match in which he was also the protagonist.