Stars rise for King of football, Pele, at 80

Football legend Pele turned 80 on Friday. A host of stars past and present joined forces to not only wish O Rei a happy birthday but also contribute to the fight against coronavirus in his native Brazil.
The #Pelegacy campaign, in conjunction with the star’s own Pele Foundation and other partners, aims to aid victims in one of the countries worst affected by the ongoing pandemic.
To date, more than five million cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Brazil, with over 150,000 people dying from the illness since March.
‘Pelegacy’ invites footballers from across the globe to send their birthday greetings to the great man, as well as making the gift of their shirts, which will then be auctioned off to raise funds to combat Covid in Brazil.
Kylian Mbappe, Robinho, Usain Bolt, Nani, Mendieta, Marco Materazzi and Dejan Stankovic are among those to already participate, leaving moving messages for Pele on social media.
“This project was created to celebrate Pele, his incredible career and his many contributions to the game,” Umberto Paolucci, the founder of the Pelegacy campaign, explained to Goal.
“He is a true legend of football and we believe that he should be appreciated as he reaches his 80th birthday.
“We thought to create this grassroots movement where shirts are exchanged virtually to engage sports personalities and fans everywhere.
“After more conversations with various stakeholders, including the Pele Foundation, we decided that we should do something to raise funds for Brazil’s fight against Covid-19. I am confident that we can auction the shirts we collect and help this cause.
“This is a unique year where I think we have all become more sensitive to social responsibility causes. Players and others have been very kind and supportive overall. We will try to beat the world record for the largest shirt exchange ever seen.
“Like Nelson Mandela said, ‘Sport has the power to change the world.’ Sport embodies a lot of civic values, and it’s phenomenally important to motivate people around the world, especially the young generations.
“It has also an incredible social value for aggregation, entertainment and local communities, especially in this time where many of us are separated from our loved ones.”
Brazil and Santos idol Pele remains the only man in history to win three World Cup titles, while his achievements for club and country, including more than 1,000 professional goals, mark him out as one of the greatest footballers ever to play the game.
And while the last of those World Cup titles, sealed with a stunning 4-1 win over Italy in the final, may have occurred 50 years ago in Mexico, Paolucci is adamant that any football fan should try to study Pele in order to appreciate his wizardly talents.
“He was Messi with a better second foot, more athletic and a killer in important games. Can you imagine such a player?” he added.
“I call on football fans around the world to go on YouTube and watch some of the best highlights of Pele. He was unbelievable.
“The issue is that he played in a time where many games were not televised and there was no social media. If Pele was playing today, I would bet he would be as good if not better than Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
“Was he the greatest of all time? Every position is different and makes comparisons very hard. The same for different eras.
“He’s not my favourite player… That’s more subjective… But I think he really was the best, without any hesitation.
“The more you see videos the more you understand it.”

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