New York – Pelé is widely regarded as the greatest soccer player of all time and is often given credit for the term “the beautiful game” being used to describe the sport – largely because he made it beautiful.
Despite all the accolades, his career after his astonishing debut as a 17-year-old phenom at the 1958 World Cup is well documented, but how he made it out of the poor streets of Bauru, Brazil, is a story that had yet to be told – until now.
The early life of the now 75-year-old Pelé, who was born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, has been made into a film, “Pelé: Birth of a Legend,” set to hit theaters on May 13.
“Big emotion,” the legendary soccer player told Fox News Latino recently about the new film. “We had a lot of videos of when I was already a professional – World Cup and tournaments – but the beginning of my life, my career, we didn’t have it yet. This film brought back a lot of memories. It was fantastic.”
Shot entirely on location in Brazil, the film follows Pelé – or "Dico," as he was known as a child – playing in the streets of Bauru with a ball made of wrapped socks and tied with a string. When the movie opens, the country is in the middle of a national crisis of confidence after hosting the 1950 World Cup and losing the final to Uruguay in Maracanã stadium.
It then follows the young Pelé’s rise to fame in Brazil – and eventually the world after the national team's 1958 victory in Sweden – the biopic focuses mainly on the budding star's relationship with his father, former Fluminense player Dondinho.
“I think the most important thing in this movie is that they showed the beginning of my life,” Pelé said. “I think this was the most important thing to show to the new generation [of fans].”
Newcomers Leonardo Carvalho and Kevin de Paula play the rising star at the age of 9 and 17, respectively.
“I was surprised by the performance of the boys,” he said. “The directors said we [went through] a lot of selections to find [them]. I spoke to the kids in Rio de Janeiro, and I saw how nervous they were. They did a good job.”
Mexican-American actor Diego Boneta was tapped to play Pelé’s arch-rival, and eventual friend, José Altafini, a forward who played under the nickname "Mazzola." The movie shows Pelé’s mother working as a maid at Altafini’s home, and José giving him the nickname “Pelé” to mock his rival.
“[Doing the movie] was awesome. We filmed in Brazil, and it’s an amazing story, because it’s the untold story of Pelé. It ends when the world gets to know him … but it’s everything prior to that,” Boneta told FNL recently.
As for the nickname the entire world came to know him by, Pelé said he never liked it when he was a young boy. He also didn’t understand it since the word has no meaning in Portuguese, but he started to love it as fans began chanting it more and more.
“I could not change it,” he said with a laugh.
“Pelé: Birth of a Legend” opens on May 13 in New York and California before getting a wider release.