Top critical review
Pele, The Legend, but not the Man
on 8 November 2017
It is a shame that the best in the world do not always write the best autobiographies. It could be that a great sport person or actor does not automtatically make for a great writer, but I think it is something else – reputation. The best have built up a legacy around themselves that means they have more to lose. A warts and all revelation about a middling Premiership player is not going to knock their rep, but it may do to a player of a higher standard. Pele for instance. Regarded as one of the best, if not the best, footballer of all time. Does he want to tarnish his past by raking up the muck?
The simple answer is no. ‘Pele: The Autobiography’ is classic autobiography fair in that it does not reveal too much about the person writing it. This is not the book to learn about his affairs off the pitch, but those on it. If you are a fan of the man’s footballing career you are in for a treat. The book covers all his major national and international games. There is also an interesting start to the book as Pele grew up in relative poverty to become a rich man loved by the people of Brazil.
The most interesting sections of the book are about how Pele tried to deal with the adulation of his fans and how his finances differed as he became more famous. You would think that someone as lauded as Pele would be mega rich, but the book explores several flawed business plans. It is also interesting reading about his retirement and move to America. You get a real sense of how much Pele appreciated his fans and the opportunities he was given in life.
The reason that Pele’s retirement and financial problems are interesting are because they offer rare glimpses into what his private life is like. This book is a closed shop and that is the prerogative of the writer, but it does make it dryer than it needed to be. We hear tell of affairs and children in trouble with the law, but these are dealt with quickly and little detail. Pele paints himself as a pretty good man, but is not ready to explore why he had the affairs etc.
For football fans, what Pele did off the pitch is not really important and these readers are treated well in this autobiography. However, I prefer more of a balance between public and private life in my biogs and in the case of ‘Pele’ too much is left unsaid. Maradona had a more colourful life for sure and his autobiography portrayed his. Even with the quieter time that Pele had, you get the feeling that he could have offered a little more, but perhaps worrying about his legacy made him take a step back.