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why soccer matters PDF

Really, it was just a bunch of socks tied together. My friends and I would “borrow” them from our neighbors’ clotheslines, and kick our “ball” around for hours at a time.

We’d race through the streets, screaming and laughing, battling for hours on end until the sun finally went down.

As you might imagine, some people in the neighborhood weren’t too happy with us! But we were crazy for soccer, and too poor to afford anything else.

Anyhow, the socks always made it back to their rightful owner, perhaps a bit dirtier than we originally found them.

In later years, I’d practice using a grapefruit, or a couple of old dishrags wadded together, or even bits of trash.

It wasn’t until I was nearly a teenager that we started playing with “real” balls.

When I played in my first World Cup, when I was seventeen years old in 1958, we used a simple, stitched leather ball—but even that seems like a relic now.

After all, the sport has changed so much. In 1958, Brazilians had to wait for up to a month if they wanted to see newsreel footage in theaters of the championship final between Brazil and the host team, Sweden.

By contrast, during the last World Cup, in 2010 in South Africa, some 3.2 billion people—or about half the planet’s population— tuned in live on television or the Internet to watch the final between Spain and the Netherlands.

I guess it’s no coincidence that the balls players use today are sleek, synthetic, multicolored orbs that are tested in wind tunnels to make sure they spin properly.

To me, they look more like alien spaceships than something you’d actually try to kick.

I think about all these changes, and I say to myself: Man, I’m old! But I also marvel at how the world has evolved—largely for the better—over the last seven decades.

How did a poor black boy from rural Brazil, who grew up kicking wadded-up socks and bits of trash around dusty streets, come to be at the center of a global phenomenon watched by billions of people around the world?

In this book, I try to describe some of the awesome changes and events that made my journey possible.

I also talk about how soccer has helped make the world a somewhat better place during my lifetime, by bringing communities together and giving disadvantaged kids like myself a sense of purpose and pride.

This isn’t a conventional autobiography or memoir—not everything that ever happened to me is contained in these pages.

Instead, I’ve tried to tell the overlapping stories of how I’ve evolved as a person and a player, and a bit about how soccer and the world evolved as well.

I’ve done so by focusing on five different World Cups, starting with the 1950 Cup that Brazil hosted when I was just a small kid, and ending with the event that Brazil will proudly host once again in 2014.

For different reasons, these tournaments have been milestones in my life.

I tell these stories with humility, and with great appreciation for how fortunate I’ve been. I’m thankful to God, and my family, for their support.

I’m thankful for all the people who took the time to help me along the way.

And I’m also grateful to soccer, the most beautiful of games, for taking a tiny kid named Edson, and letting him live the life of “Pelé.”

why soccer matters

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