Pelé may be the most famous soccer player of all time, and he is so well-known that even people who aren’t fans of the sport likely know his name. Many younger soccer players over the years have looked up to Pelé and thought of him as an idol as they tried to make it in the game.
But there are some things about Pelé’s life that may not make him the ideal person to look up to if you dig into his personal life. He has been married a few times and has some extramarital affairs, from which came a couple of daughters. Here are the sordid details.
Pelé: legendary soccer player and philanthropist
Pelé is perhaps best known for the success he had with Brazil’s team in the World Cup, helping the country win three World Cup championships in 1958, 1962, and 1970. But the soccer great also played for in club competition with Santos, and he ended his career with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League.
Pelé played for Brazil’s national team from 1957-71. He is the nation’s all-time leading goal scorer with 77 goals (95 including unofficial friendlies). He scored 504 goals for the Santos squad, and he recorded 37 goals with the Cosmos from 1975-77.
Pelé has earned a number of soccer accolades in his life, with one of the biggest being named the FIFA Player of the Century, an honor he shared with Diego Maradona.
He remained in the spotlight after his retirement, thanks in part to philanthropic work. Biography.com tells us Pelé was awarded the International Peace Award in 1978 for his work with UNICEF, and he has served as Brazil’s Extraordinary Minister for Sport.
Pelé: not-so-legendary husband
Pelé has been married three times. The first, to Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi, lasted from 1966 to 1982, and the couple had three children together.
The soccer star remarried in 1994, tying the knot with gospel singer Assíria Lemos, who gave birth to twins in 1996. That marriage ended in divorce in 2008.
The Belfast Telegraph reports on the soccer star’s third marriage, with the wedding happening in 2016 when he was 75 years old. That marriage was to 50-year-old businesswoman Marcia Cibele Aoki, who he had been dating for six years. On social media, Pelé referred to Aoki, who he first met in the mid-1980s, as his “definitive love.”
Some notable extramarital affairs
Perhaps one reason for Pelé being married three times is his tendency to cheat on his wives. He has been caught in several extramarital affairs, perhaps most famously with model and TV host Xuxa.
Remezcla writes that the two were involved in an affair from 1981 to 1986, despite a 23-year age gap between them — she was 17 when they started dating and he was 40. In his autobiography, Pelé wrote that the relationship wasn’t very serious because they lived in different cities and he claimed it was more of a friendship than a relationship.
He had at least two daughters as a result of his affairs. One of those daughters, Sandra Regina Arantes do Nascimento, died in 2006 at the age of 42. ESPN reports her mother, Anizia Machado, was a maid who had an affair with Pelé when he was a young player with Santos.
Arantes do Nascimento wasn’t recognized as the soccer legend’s daughter until 1996 following a five-year court case in which she won the right to use his surname. She published a book in 1998 about her mother’s affair with Pelé.
He never recognized her as his daughter, and he even refused to attend her funeral, with his spokesman saying Pelé “will send a wreath in the name of his family….he prefers to pray at home.” As for his affairs, Pelé once described his indiscretions as being him being “a normal youth” who “had many adventures.”