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In the eight years of uninterrupted success that have followed, Pel� has never really prepared himself for anything. He greets each new triumph with wide, appreciative eyes and the happy naivet� that is a mark of the Pel� style. He holds every scoring record in Brazil and has averaged almost a goal a game during his career. He has helped win nearly every title his team has sought, and Santos has refused multimillion-dollar offers for him. He lives in what he considers the best of all possible worlds and, when he thinks of the future at all, he registers only one concern. "I have always believed," he said, "that no matter how much fame a man has, he should live a simple life."
This is Pel�'s most cherished ideal: the simple life—life in a fairly modest apartment that is no better and no worse than the 35 other units in a pastel blue building one block from the beach at Santos; a life of fishing and hunting in the backwoods, away from the crowds, or listening to records at home; a life of cautious investing, of moderate spending and quiet dignity; a life, in short, that should be almost impossible for the most famous athlete in the world.
But Pel� has made it possible When he started earning big money he sent his entire salary home to his parents and lived on only a portion of his bonuses. He shared a rooming house with five other players and drove a Volkswagen sedan. Lately he has made a few concessions to his position. He bought a house for his parents in a fashionable section of Santos. He began investing money in businesses under the direction of his personal manager, Jose Gonzalez Ozores, who is known as Pepe Gordo. He even agreed, reluctantly, to drive a blue Mercedes that was given to him by an ardent supporter of the Santos team.
The simple life survived these minor adjustments, and last February it also survived the most important adjustment Pel� has made. He got married—in the simplest way that an idol of millions could ever hope to do it. In fact, both the courtship and the wedding are excellent examples of the Pel� style. Pel� and Rosemarie Cholby were secretly engaged for almost six years. He never took her out in public, and she never ventured into a stadium to see him play. According to Pel�, this was to keep the girl safe from hordes of fans and jealous girls. According to a few of Pel�'s friends, it was also designed to reassure Pel� himself; he has always feared that girl friends might use him to seek publicity. Six years of secrecy made it pretty clear that Rosemarie wasn't looking for headlines, and last fall the couple dared to appear in public and announce wedding plans.
The reaction was swift and predictable. There was nationwide gnashing of teeth among Brazilian maidens, and widespread analysis of Pel�'s love life in the fan magazines. Society experts wondered about the protocol involved in this momentous wedding. One helpful Santos citizen suggested that the ceremony be held in the town's 35,000-seat stadium. Pel�, of course, had his own ideas. There was a simple ceremony, in his parents' house, followed by an intimate reception, to which only one team member—his best friend Pepe—was invited. Somehow the press managed to give it the coverage it seemed to warrant—"the couple looked at each other and smiled six times"—but it still could be considered as dignified an event as Pel� could have hoped for. The happy couple had a good head start toward the simple life.
The honeymoon, a tour of Europe, proceeded just as smoothly. Friends of Santos and of Pel� seemed to appear everywhere, helping the couple avoid crowds while enjoying each country's hospitality. Since Rosemarie is white, the newlyweds might have encountered some discrimination in a less-perfect world than Pel�'s; but they had no such problems, and Pel� still finds it hard to believe that the problems really exist "Don't you think a Negro with a white wife might have had some trouble in parts of Europe if the Negro's name wasn't Pel�?" he was asked. "I don't know," he said, a little puzzled. "I never even thought about it. I've never been faced with any kind of race trouble. Here in Brazil we hardly think about race. I know that Cassius Clay [who, incidentally, probably ranks second to Pel� among the world's best-known athletes] is always talking about fighting for his race. I wouldn't criticize him, because I don't know the situation where he comes from. But in Brazil no one thinks that way. I could fight for my country or my friends, but not for one color."
Race and politics and world problems have no place in the simple life. Pel� donates to many charities and tries to give as much attention as he can to children, but he leaves the policy decisions and sociological theories to others. His main personal worry now is how much time he can spend with his wife, since his schedule keeps him traveling for about four months each year. And his closest approaches to policymaking come in his conferences with Pepe Gordo, in the small, plywood-paneled office at the back of the plumbing-supply store that is Pel�'s largest business venture.
Pepe Gordo was sitting at the desk when visitors arrived recently at the office. Pel� stood at his right side, talking into one of three telephones. There were pictures of Pel� on each wall, books about Pel� on the top shelf of a large, standing bookcase. Pel� finished one conversation and picked up another phone, looking slightly impatient. He had been home only three days after a month-long tour to New York and Mexico City; that night at 10, he would have to enter the team dormitory for "concentration" leading up to an important league game. He spoke into the phones that Pepe Gordo handed to him, and signed the papers Pepe Gordo pushed in front of him. He approached such duties with none of the enthusiasm he shows on the playing field. It is clear that he is not about to rival Arnold Palmer as an athlete-mogul. Typically, he does not even use his name in the title of his business.
The subject of his income was raised. Pepe Gordo looked up from the desk and grimaced. "We have something in our country," he said solemnly, "known as taxes. They are just as high as those in the U.S. And because of them, we don't disclose exact figures." What Pel� and his manager do disclose, reluctantly, is that Pel� makes more money from endorsements than he does as a soccer player. They also reveal that he works under a two-year contract with ample fringe benefits and bonus clauses.
Pel� plans to continue playing for about five more years, unless he is crippled before that time by enemy action. When he does leave soccer he will have few worries, but Pel� does not really seem to be looking forward to that day. When he mentioned quitting he leaned forward on a red leather chair in his office and stopped smiling, and for the first time it became apparent that Pel�'s head lies just a little uneasy beneath the crown.