Pelé is a name known by every serious soccer fan, but not everyone knows what jersey number he wore or why he wore that number. After researching this topic, I want to share what I found with you. Here’s what shirt number Pelé wore.
Pelé wore the soccer jersey number 10 throughout his career. After being assigned the number 10 for the 1958 FIFA World Cup, Pelé continued to wear this number on his jersey for both his club team Santos and his international team Brazil until he retired from playing soccer in 1977.
Surprisingly, Pelé didn’t choose the number 10. Instead, it metaphorically fell into his lap.
But there’s no doubt that the prestige we now associate with this number began the day Pelé put on the jersey.
How Pelé Came to Wear the Number 10
Pelé himself has stated that it was by accident that he started wearing the number 10 shirt.
When he first joined up with the Brazil team for the 1958 FIFA World Cup, the Brazilian Federation submitted the squads player list to FIFA without any numbers allocated to the players.
But to appear in a game, all players needed a number. So, the tournament officials randomly assigned the numbers, and Pelé ended up with the number 10.
Despite the fact that he was only 17 years old and new to the squad, what would become one of the most iconic numbers in modern-day soccer landed on his shoulders.
Pelé told SporTV News:
“The No.10 jersey was given to me at a World Cup match in 1958,” he said. “Nobody thought that it was important to wear the No.10 and even though I was not the oldest player in the squad, it coincidentally dropped to me to wear at the World Cup”.
History of Pele Wearing the Number 10 Jersey
At the point Pelé began wearing the number 10 in 1958, he was still a young man.
He had been highly impressive in his first years playing for Brazilian soccer club Santos after making his debut as a 15-year-old in September 1956 and earned his first cap for the Brazil national team in July 1957. Although he scored his first goal for Brazil in that game, Brazil lost 2-1 to Argentina.
When the 1958 FIFA World Cup came around, Pelé was still young but ready to make an impact.
He embraced the responsibility of wearing the number 10 and ended the tournament as a World Cup winner and the top scorer.
After this, Pelé refused to wear any other number than the number 10.
He wore the number 10 jersey from the first game of the next season for his club Santos and for every game he played for them for the next 16 years.
He even wore the number 10 in the two seasons he played for the New York Cosmos between 1975-77.
The Significance of Pelé Wearing the Number 10 Jersey
In modern-day soccer, some of the best players strive to wear the number 10 jersey. This is because it carries a certain significance, and players want to proudly display the number on their back.
But this importance is a consequence of players that have gone before them, such as Pelé.
Back in 1958, jersey numbers such as the 7, 9, or 10 didn’t have the same prestige or significance that they now carry.
Back when Pelé began wearing the number 10 it was simply a consequence of a player’s position on the field rather than anything to do with the individual player.
For example, the goalie would wear the number 1 jersey, a winger would wear the number 7, and the playmaker of the team would wear the number 10, as you can see in the table below.
|1||Goalie or Goalkeeper|
|2||Right Fullback or Wingback|
|3||Left Fullback or Wingback|
|5||Center Back or Sweeper|
|6||Defending or Center Midfielder|
|7||Right Midfielder and Winger|
|9||Center Forward or Striker|
|10||Attacking Midfielder or Center Forward|
|11||Left Midfielder and Winger|
For more information on jersey numbers and why they’re used, check out my article – Soccer Jersey Numbers: What they mean and why they are used.
However, over time, the significance of specific numbers rose above others. One number that arguably surpassed all the others was the number 10.
And one reason this number rose to prominence is that great players such as Pelé are associated with it.
You can spend many hours arguing over who the GOAT in soccer is (and you can find out my opinion here!), but many people would put Pelé at the top of their list.
Pelé performed the role of a number 10 as no other player had before him.
The number 10 represents the team’s playmaker, the player that pulls the strings and creates goal-scoring chances for their team.
Pelé did all these things better than anyone else before or after him.
He was a master with both feet. He was phenomenal in the air, and he was a genius at improvisation on the field. All characteristics we now associate with a great number 10.
The number 10 is significant in every soccer team. Over the years, many players have built on the significance that the number 10 carries. Still, it was Pelé that created the prestige.
Because of his exploits on the field, fans all around the world wanted to be like him and began to wear jerseys with the number 10 printed on the back.
For more info on some of the greatest players ever to play soccer have a look at one of my related articles: