Pelé: the keys to the Netflix documentary about the Latin American legend

The documentary of one of the best soccer players in history reveals some personal and political details about his life and his sporting career.

Still from the documentary 'Pelé'

The documentary tells how Pelé became one of the most important footballers in all of history. Photo: YT-Netflix

LatinAmerican Post | Ariel Cipolla

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Leer en español: Pelé: las claves del documental de Netflix sobre la leyenda latinoamericana

Netflix is delighted with sports documentaries. During the past year, we saw the popularity of The Last Dance, the production that told the story of Michael Jordan during the golden age of the Chicago Bulls in the NBA. Therefore, it is clear that it would not be the only thing they would prepare for the sports world.

In this case, we are talking about the documentary Pelé, which, unlike the previous format, was not a series but a documentary film lasting almost two hours. There, the 12 years in which Pelé managed to be crowned not only the best Latin American soccer player but also one of the most important in the history of this sport were summarized.

Precisely, in December 2000, FIFA had made an award to decide the best soccer player of the 20th century, in which Pelé was crowned by the experts, while Maradona was chosen by the fans. Thus, Pelé showed why this 3 world cup winner was one of the stars of the sport.

Pelé documentary

The first thing to say is that, although the sports part was the most recognized of Pelé, there were also personal and even political aspects that the documentary tried to show. This production, co-directed by David Tryhorn and Ben Nicholas, features the former Brazilian footballer, who is interviewed to explore aspects of his past.

One of the things that should be noted is that special emphasis is placed on the personality of the former striker. Precisely, in one part he revealed that, in the beginning, he felt "fear" before the big finals. He even asked "not to be Pelé", as he was also considered one of the emblematic players of the military dictatorship.

The Brazilian team at that time had won two World Cups in a row: those of Sweden in 1958 and that of Chile in 1962 but had failed in England in 1966. For the next edition, the government placed all its trust in him, something to which Pelé alluded during his interview, when he mentioned that it was used as “military propaganda” for a dictatorship that, according to the National Truth Commission, was responsible for 421 murders and disappearances between 1962 and 1985.

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At the same time, it perfectly narrates how she started out as a young star and ended up being a true symbol for Cariocas. In other words, after the 1958 World Cup, which he conquered when he was only 17 years old, he had become an eminence in Brazil. At the same time, he took responsibility for being an icon of the black community. However, his image in the triumph in Mexico, giving the cup to the dictator Emílio Garrastazu Medici, had provoked criticism at the time.

The truth is that, with the passing of time, only the brilliant image that Pelé left as a footballer has remained, although he has also had a relationship with all Brazilian presidents, regardless of ideological colors. Pelé says that he always opened the door to all democratic governments, something that could be seen recently when he sent a signed Santos shirt (the team where he shone) to Jair Bolsonaro.

Obviously, there is also his purely footballing part, which made him an eminence of this sport. It is told, in a sensational way, how he achieved glory with the Brazilian National Soccer Team, but also all his achievements with Santos, all with a style of play that made him unique.

In short, Pelé from Netflix perfectly shows how one of the most iconic players of all time became a star, who became a legend for Latin America and for the planet. All this, of course, without forgetting some of the most important controversies surrounding his figure beyond sports.