On October 1, 1977, despite a downpour, 75,646 fans pack Giants Stadium in New Jersey for soccer star Pele’s farewell game. In the exhibition, Pele plays for the only professional teams he ever played for—the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League for the first half and Santos of Brazil for the second half.
Pele, considered by many the greatest soccer player of all time, finished his historic career in legendary fashion with a beautiful goal (for the Cosmos) off a free kick from about 30 yards to tie the score at 1 near the end of the first half. New York won, 2-1, on a goal by Ramon Mifflin, the man who substituted for Pele when he joined Santos for the second half.
But the result was a footnote to the celebration for Pele, who led his native Brazil to World Cup titles in 1958, 1962 and 1970. Pele scored 12 goals in World Cup play and more than 1,000 in first-class matches during his career.
Before the game, nine teams of children presented Pele with flowers.
“I want to take this opportunity to ask you, in this moment when the world looks to me, to please take more attention to the young ones, to the kids all over the world,” Pele told the crowd. “We need them too much…I want to ask you—because I believe that love is the most important thing we can take from life, because everything else passes—to say with me three times, Love! Love! Love!”
During halftime, Pele presented his No. 10 Cosmos jersey to his father, the former soccer star Dondinho. The Cosmos announced that the jersey number would be retired. Pele presented his No. 10 Santos jersey to Waldemar de Brito, the man who discovered the prodigy when he was only 12 and still known as Edson do Nascimento.
Pele’s farewell was a media spectacle. In addition to U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and sports legend Muhammad Ali, 343 reporters, 168 photographers, 165 radio-TV personalities and 90 film crew members attended. After embracing Pele, Ali yelled, “Don’t forget—You and I are the two greatest in the whoooole world!”