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Indy soccer player remembers Pelé’s global influence

(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indianapolis is home to a rare piece of history connected to the late legendary soccer player, Pelé. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is home to a soccer ball Pelé signed with both his given name and nickname. Local fans say Pelé was much more than a soccer player.

Pelé is a name that can stand alone. Even if you’ve never seen a soccer game, you’ve seen the name. For fellow Brazilian and soccer fan, Junyor Zanelatto, there’s power in that name.

“Pelé is not just the soccer player. He’s not just the king of soccer. He’s more than that. He’s much more than that,” he said.

Zanelatto was born in Brazil, and for a few years played professional indoor soccer known as futsal. He played a few more years in the states and still plays with Liga Latina Futbol Soccer club, but now calls Indianapolis home. Latin America’s contribution to the soccer’s growing popularity cannot be ignored.

“In Brazil, if there’s someone who is very good at surfing or a sport, they say ‘oh, that guy is the Pelé of surfing’,” he said.

(WISH Photo)

He says when you look at exceptional players of today, it’s important to remember their highlight reels. Pelé did if first. Zanelatto doubts anyone of his generation or the next will live up to that legacy.

“It’s not just Brazil, but every country that loves soccer and lives soccer, and breaths soccer, everybody is saying the same thing. Nobody is more than Pelé,” Zanelatto said.

Pelé had been dealing with a variety of medical issues over the years, and Zanelatto says Pelé’s recent hospitalization due to colon cancer complications caused many to fear it would be the end. While his time is over, he’s left his mark.

“I know in Brazil now, everybody is very very sad,” Zanelatto said.