Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooal!

Today’s post celebrates the international sporting event that captivates billions of people every four years: the World Cup!

Brazilian icon Pele is one of the world’s most recognized footballers. He is one of the few players to appear in four World Cup finals and the only player to win three World Cup titles (1958, 1962, and 1970).

After he retired from international soccer, Pele dazzled New Yorkers from 1975 to 1977 playing in the North American Soccer League for the New York Cosmos. He’s widely credited with sparking American interest in the beautiful game.

In addition to being the world’s ambassador to football, Pele has been a frequent visitor to the White House.

In 1973, President Richard Nixon hosted Pele and his then-wife Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi. During the visit, the President told Pele “You are the greatest in the world,” and when Pele explained to the President that soccer differed from American football, Nixon replied “Do I know that! The main thing is to use your head.”

President Nixon meeting with Edson "Pele" Arantes do Nascimento, retired professional Brazilian soccer player and Director of the International Soccer Program sponsored by PepsiCo. Pele autographs a soccer ball for President Nixon, 05/08/1973. (National Archives Identifier 194508)

President Nixon meeting with Edson “Pele” Arantes do Nascimento, retired professional Brazilian soccer player and Director of the International Soccer Program sponsored by PepsiCo. Pele autographs a soccer ball for President Nixon, 05/08/1973. (National Archives Identifier 194508)

Two years later, Pele again visited the White House—this time in the Rose Garden. President Gerald Ford took the opportunity to demonstrate that Pele was not the only one who could juggle a soccer ball.

President Gerald R. Ford Juggling a Soccer Ball to Pele’s Amusement, 06/28/1975. (National Archives Identifier 6829578)

President Gerald R. Ford juggling a soccer ball to Pele’s amusement, 06/28/1975. (National Archives Identifier 6829578)

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan, not wanting to be out-classed by his predecessors, kicked the ball around with U.S. Men’s National Team player Steve Moyers, while Pele and a group of children looked on in the Rose Garden.

President Reagan kicking a soccer ball during a demonstration with children and Pele and Steve Moyers in the rose garden, 10/14/1982. (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum)

President Reagan kicking a soccer ball during a demonstration with children and Pele and Steve Moyers in the Rose Garden, 10/14/1982. (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum)

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