Pele never got the opportunity to play at an Olympic Games and a gold medal is one honour missing from his trophy cabinet.
As a professional footballer from such a young age, the greatest player of them all was never eligible for selection for Brazil’s Olympic team.
The three-time World Cup winner signed his first professional contract with Santos aged only 15 and made his debut for the Selecao aged 16 against Argentina in the Maracana and was part of the Brazil team which claimed the World Cup in Sweden in 1958.
“When I started to play football at 16 years old, I was in the national team,” Pele told Goal. “I was selected to play in Sweden and Brazil won. At that time, professional players were not allowed to play in the Olympics.”
That gold medal is still lacking on the Brazil honours list despite five runners-up places at the Olympics heading into this year’s tournament, slated to kick off on August 4. Pele is tempted to come back and add the one that got away to his medal collection.
“The only title Brazil doesn’t have is the Olympic tournament champion. The only tournament I never played because I was professional was the Olympics. Now, we’re going have the Olympics in Brazil,” he said.
“I think I’m going to prepare to play this Olympics. Maybe I’ll win this championship for Brazil. In five months, I have to be prepared for that!”
The International Olympic Committee relaxed its rules on professional players in 1984 and now each team is permitted to use three players aged 23 and over.
Pele’s heir Neymar is expected to lead his side to glory as one of the team’s over-age players as the national side attempts to make amends for their destruction by Germany in the 2014 World Cup semi-finals.
It is shaping up to be a busy summer for Dunga and his Brazil charges as they also play the Copa America Centenario in the United States in June. Following a disappointing quarter-finals exit at Chile 2015 as well as the World Cup devastation, Pele is expecting a better showing this time around.
“I hope Brazil has more luck and more chances to win than at the World Cup,” he said. “It’s a very important tournament. I hope we set up a good team for Brazil when we get there.
“I’m going to be there to see some games because I still have my family there.”
Pele will be speaking in the United Kingdom in London on Wednesday June 1 at Battersea Evolution, Birmingham on Friday June 3 at The Vox, Resort World and Manchester on Saturday June 4 at The Palace Hotel.
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