‘Love, love, love again. Forever. (Amor, amor e amor, para sempre.)’
This is the last message from football emperor Pele (Brazil, 1940-2022), who left for heaven on December 29 last year. ‘He captivated the world with his football genius, stopped wars, and did social things. He spread love, which he firmly believed was the cure for all the world’s problems,’ Pele wrote on Instagram.
Lee Jae-hyung (Director of ‘Best Eleven’, a monthly soccer magazine), introduced by the International Football Federation (FIFA) as a ‘global soccer data collector’ on the digital platform FIFA+ last year, is also a ‘Pele Kids’. He opened his eyes to the beauty of football while watching Pele, and has walked a single path collecting football data and stories. Mr. Lee collected items and materials that smelled like Pele by traveling all over the world to the extent that he held a ‘Pele Exhibition’ with only his own collection. I met him in the office where a large picture of Pele hangs.
The white ball worn during the 1972 Pele game in Korea
On June 2, 1972, the Brazilian Santos team led by Pele and the Korean national team had a friendly match at Dongdaemun Stadium. At the time, when there were many households without a TV, a black-and-white TV was shown for 20 won at a local comic book store. Lee Jae-hyung, a boy who first saw Pele play, fell in love with Pele and soccer at the same time. “Pele ignited the passion for football that was simmering in me,” he said.
He owns the white ball used in the game. It was donated by Park Gyeong-hwa, who was a member of the 2nd Asian Cup (1960) winning team and played against Santos. At the time, ‘spotted ball’ was used, but it is said that he made the first handmade white ball for Pele’s match.
Lee Jae-hyeong, who was born and raised in Seongbuk-dong, Seoul, wanted to become a player by going to Kyungsin Middle School, a prestigious soccer school near his home, but was assigned to another middle school as a result of a lottery. Although he was far from a soccer player, he continued his love of soccer by collecting soccer data.
It was on April 8, 1998, that Jaehyung Lee and Pele first met face to face. Pele, former MasterCard ambassador, came to Seoul for the 1998 FIFA World Cup commemorative event in France. In the meantime, Mr. Lee was working as a planning manager for the monthly football magazine ‘Best Eleven’ and was gaining a reputation as a football data collector. He toured 45 countries and collected over 40,000 pieces. More than half of his salary was spent on materials and travel expenses.
He told the event staff, “I made a picture frame by enlarging the cover of ‘Monthly Football’, which contains scenes from Santos’ invitational game in 1972. Please allow me to deliver it directly to Pele,” he begged. It was difficult to meet, and Pele, who received the photo from 16 years ago, smiled broadly and held Lee’s hand. Then he signed the autobiography he had brought from Brazil and gave it as a gift.
He said, “This autobiography is special because it contains all of Pele’s career goals.” When I opened the book, the date and score of the game Pele scored was written in detail. This includes the goal in the 1972 visit to Korea (Santos won 3-2). Pele scored 1283 goals (0.94 goals per game) in 1363 matches, which includes friendly matches that are not official matches.
Lee Jae-hyung, who met Pele in person and received a special gift, started collecting Pele data in earnest. In the meantime, he has been to Brazil only 8 times. I went to the Pele Museum in downtown Santos, the FC Santos home stadium where Pele played for 19 years, and Pele’s regular barber shop right in front of the stadium. In particular, at the barber shop run by Pele’s friend ‘Didi’, Lee Jae-hyung acquires several valuable materials. Mr. Lee said, “Pele, who lived in an upscale residential area in downtown Santos, visited this barber shop once a month. Brazil is insecure, but barbershops use razors, so I think I found someone I could trust and entrust my face to. Pele said that he brought a bunch of junk from home with tickets to every Santos match.” 토토사이트
What Lee Jae-hyung ‘bought’ at Didi’s barbershop was a ‘sock ball’ that Pele used to play with as a child. “I almost took away what Didi said, ‘This is not enough’. He told the story of the purchase, saying, “I borrowed a dollar and bought it, saying, ‘I will pay it back later’.
The Brazilian national team jersey worn by Pele at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico was bought from a collector who worked as a lawyer in Italy. This uniform only has the number 10, but no name is written on it. Mr. Lee said, “At the time, only the uniform number was sewn on. It was a time when there were no brand uniforms such as Nike and Adidas, and Pele was the only player in the Brazilian national team to wear number 10.”
Lee reunited with Pele at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. This was also a link to the ‘Pele Exhibition’. Sports brand Puma Korea invited branch managers from all over the country to hold a New Year’s party, and borrowed about 100 items from Mr. Lee’s Pele collection to hold an exhibition in the lobby of the venue. At the time, Puma East Asia general manager asked, “Who the hell had all these Pele collections?” After greeting Mr. Lee, he said, “During the Germany World Cup Brazil-Australia match (Munich Allianz Arena), PUMA arranged an event where only 10 people were invited to the skybox to have dinner with Pele and watch the game. I would like to invite you there.” Pele, who met again after 18 years, said that he grabbed Lee’s hand with a characteristic big smile.
‘Pele’s Curse’ proves that it was that honest
Mr. Lee said, “Pele was not only the greatest soccer player of the past 100 years (selected by FIFA in 2000), but also the greatest player in all sports in the world (selected by the IOC in 1999). He was the only person to lift the World Cup trophy three times, and at the same time, he was the emperor who showed the beauty and creativity of football in the most dramatic way.”
Pele is often compared to Argentine soccer hero Maradona. Maradona passed away in November 2020 at the age of 60. Mr. Lee said, “Pele and Maradona have a 20-year age difference. There are bound to be many people who have seen Maradona’s splendid play on TV. However, when comparing the footprints of their lives, the two walked completely different paths. Maradona was often involved in crimes such as drugs, sexual assault, and tax evasion, and committed eccentricities that ordinary people could not understand. On the other hand, Pele, who had a clean private life, served as Brazil’s Minister of Sports after his retirement, and was an evangelist who spread the value of football around the world.” He said, “There are people who talk about Pele’s curse (the jinx that every team that Pele mentions will win the championship is eliminated) and make a laughing stock, but I think that is proof that Pele was that easy-going and honest person. He didn’t turn his horse around or create a hole to get out of,” he added.
At Pele’s funeral, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said: “We will ask every country in the world to name a football field in his name.” Mr. Lee also has a plan to create a ‘Pele Library’. “If you go to large bookstores in major cities around the world, there are several books about Pele. The covers are mostly close-ups of Pele’s face. I plan to stack these books to create an entrance and use them as a photo zone, and to decorate the interior with my 5,000 soccer books and magazines and Pele’s collection,” said Mr. Lee, who revealed his idea. I think he gave me,” he laughed.