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Pelé, 1940-2022

Pelé, 1940-2022

Neil Leifer captured the above iconic image of Pelé during the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, where he was working as a photographer for Sports Illustrated. The photograph depicts the football star leaping in the air to celebrate a goal, with the crowd cheering in the background. Over time, this photograph has become one of the most recognisable images of Pelé, symbolising the thrill and enthusiasm of football.

Widely considered the greatest footballer of all time, Terry O'Neill remembered working with the legend in his 2016 book Every Picture Tells a Story. Terry wrote: "It doesn't matter who you cheer for, Pelé stands alone as the greatest to have ever played the game."

It was the opportunity to photograph Pele in 2013 that brought Terry briefly out of retirement. Along with former editor of the Sunday Times and President of Iconic Images Robin Morgan, he travelled to Brazil and spent the day at Pele's home, where the legend himself cooked them lunch. As Morgan remembers, the main topic of discussion was Bobby Moore, an England football great who had been one of Terry's best friends, and whom Pelé greatly admired.

Then, after lunch, Pele took his guests down to the basement and brought out the original Jules Rimet World Cup trophy, which FIFA had gifted to Brazil after they won the competition for a third time; the star of so many great World Cups, the country had presented the trophy to Pelé.

"Terry almost wept," recalls Morgan. "He couldn't believe he was holding the same trophy his late, great friend Bobby Moore had lifted when he captained England to their 1966 World Cup victory."

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