A football made of worn white leather with barely legible print.
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Gallery Highlight: A Football Fit for a King

Updated 11 January 2023

By 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum Curatorial Team

The 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum (QOSM)’s Hall of Athletes features a football with superstar connections.

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Known in his native Brazil as O Rei (The King), the late Pelé continues to be regarded by many as the greatest football player in the history of the game.

Born in 1940, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, nicknamed Pelé, became the youngest goal scorer for Brazil - which dominated the game for years - aged 16. At 17, he became the youngest-ever World Cup winner when Brazil beat Sweden in 1958.

Pelé rocketed to international superstardom, fielding offers from several European football clubs.

In a highly politicised move, the Brazilian government legally bestowed the title of ‘national treasure’ on Pelé - a decree that technically prevented him from transferring to a foreign club.

To watch him play was to watch the delight of a child combined with the extraordinary grace of a man in full.

Nelson Mandela

And so he continued with his beloved Canarinho (Little Canary, nickname for the national Brazilian football team).

In his iconic number 10 shirt, Pelé brought the agility and rhythm of the spectacular Brazilian ginga style of play to an international audience. Ginga, a term borrowed from another Brazilian-mastered sport, capoeira, literally translates to ‘swaying back and forth’; a distinctive, inimitable way of movement, and lifestyle, synonymous with Brazilians.

A white football, time-weathered leather, with faint blue writing visible.

Photo: Mohammed Faris Edakkunimal, courtesy of Qatar Museums ©2022

Pelé's fame and presence on the world stage also drew attention to the lack of diversity in football - something Pelé’s humanitarian work centered around until his passing in late 2022.

This ball was used by Pelé when he scored the incredible 1,000th goal of his career during the match between FC Santos and Club de Regatas Vasco da Gama in Rio de Janeiro on 19 November 1969.

Tied, and with 12 minutes left on the clock, a penalty was called with Pelé set to take the shot. At 11:11pm, in front of more than 65,000 fans, he scored his 1,000th goal. He requested to keep the ball, which is currently on loan to QOSM and proudly on display in the Hall of Athletes.

Faded blue writing on an aged leathery football reads 'Pele 1000'.

Photo: Mohammed Faris Edakkunimal, courtesy of Qatar Museums ©2022

The white leather Copa Rio - Drible Especial brand football is aged and the branding faded, but the words ‘Pelé 1000’ are still clear.

Pelé's awe-inspiring World Record remains unbreakable at a staggering 1,283 goals.

His 1,000th goal football is currently displayed in the Hall of Athletes, alongside other objects of sporting significance, underlining the museum’s mission to inspire and unlock athletic potential in Qatar.

Plan your visit today to see the complete collection.

Editor’s note: This article, originally published 11 October 2022, has been edited to reflect the passing of Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known as Pelé, on 29 December 2022.