Remembering Soccer Icon Pelé’s Legacy As a Musician

Pelé, the king of the “jogo bonito,” passed away on Thursday (December 29) in São Paulo at age 82. He had been treated for colon cancer since 2021 and was hospitalized for the past month, according to The Associated Press. His agent, Joe Fraga, confirmed the news.

With his death, the world not only loses one of the greatest athletes in history. The legendary Brazilian soccer player, who won a record three World Cups and was undeniably part of the pop culture (appearing even on The Simpsons), was also a singer-songwriter.

It is a much-less-known side of Pelé internationally: “I didn’t want the public to make the comparison between Pelé the composer and Pelé the football player,” he told British newspaper The Guardian in 2006. “That would have been a huge injustice. In football, my talent was a gift from God. Music was just for fun.”

However, he kept honing his musical vocation throughout his life: “He was never far from a guitar, and he carried a miniature tape recorder to capture tunes or lyrics as the mood struck him,” wrote Lawrie Mifflin on her Pelé obituary for the New York Times.

And he got music published over the years too, from the 1977 LP Pelé to his single “Acredita No Véio (Listen To The Old Man),” featuring Rodrigo and Gabriela just two years ago.

Here are some of Pelé’s albums and songs you can listen to today:

Sergio Mendes’ Pelé

The 1977 album by Brazilian composer and arranger Sérgio Mendes was the soundtrack to a documentary on Pelé’s life and marked the soccer player’s debut as a singer and songwriter. Pelé performed two of his own songs in this production: the main theme “Meu Mundo É uma Bola (My World Is a Ball)”, and “Cidade Grande (Big City)”, accompanied by the Brazilian singer Gracinha Leporace.


Written by Pelé in honor of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, “Esperança” is an upbeat pagode song about youth performed with a children’s choir. It’s music video combines images of Pelé singing in the studio with some of boys playing soccer and scenes from the city.

Pelé Ginga

This 13-track album released in 2014 includes collaborations with Brazilian music greats Gilberto Gil, on “Quem Sou Eu”, and Elis Regina, on “Perdão Não Tem” and “Vexamão”. It also features Brazilian rapper Rappin’ Hood in “Ginga”, a word that describes a Brazilian style of playing soccer in which the ball is controlled, passed and scored with such ease and flow that it makes the rival feel non-existent.

“Acredita No Véio (Listen To The Old Man)”, featuring Rodrigo y Gabriela

Released on October 20, 2020, just three days before his 80th birthday, the single “Acredita No Véio (Listen To The Old Man)” features the Grammy-winning Mexican acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela. “I wrote this one because when I used to play with Santos, the coach used to say that when we lost it was the players’ fault, but when we won it was the macumba (black magic) had helped,” said Pelé back then in a press release. “The song is joking about that.”

Sigal Ratner-Arias