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  • Writer's pictureAbeer Ramadan-Shinnawi: Altair Ed

Life lessons I learned from Pele.

Pele is a sports legend. Whether you are an avid fan of soccer, aka futbol, or not, I am pretty sure you know who this person is and his influence on the game. Since childhood, I have always been an avid history buff so when I learned about the life of Pele from one of my childhood shows, Against the Odds, I was hooked! Not only was I intrigued by his legendary athletic abilities, but I was also introduced to the history enslaved Africans brought to Brazil, making it culturally rich and unique today.

Being such a huge fan of the legend, I recently watched the movie based on his life called- Pele: Birth of a Legend on Amazon Prime Video (this is not an endorsement for Amazon, I swear!). After watching the movie, I could not help but think of the life lessons I took away from Pele's lived experiences.

I represent Brazil all over the world. Wherever I go I have to do my best, to not disappoint the Brazilian people. And that I've done.--Pele

Obstacles be damned: Pele was challenged with obstacle after obstacle: born into poverty, limited resources, racist cultural norms of the country, and more but those never stopped him. He learned to adjust when he was faced with obstacles in his life. We are all faced with obstacles, but how we respond to them is what creates the person we are today or the person we are destined to become. Knowing that you have the power to either silence or amplify the negativity is what creates the environment you want to live in.

Believe in YOU: You know yourself better than anyone else, so believe in your skills, abilities, and dreams. Believing in yourself is not easy: imposter syndrome can be debilitating, especially when constantly facing rejection. Believing in yourself is what got you to where you are today! Pele believed in himself, his skills, and his abilities, making him one of the most prolific soccer leaders to ever live.

And your own flavor: Pele did not win by silencing his talents. He used Ginga, the essence of Brazilian soccer techniques, which made him stand out. When Pele began playing for Brazil, he was discouraged from using these "uncivilized" techniques. Pele knew no other way to play soccer. He knew that his method of playing honored his ancestors but also won games. His ability to add his own flavor later changed soccer, placing Brazil as the leader of the game. Adding your own flavor in a world that seems to reward the mediocre "norm" is what gives you the drive to want to change the game. There have been many times I was silenced because people did not understand my unique design. From that, I learned that there are two groups of people: one that will admire and encourage you to be true to who you are and one that will look at your abilities as a threat and do all they can to watch you fail. Use both groups to your advantage. Pele sure did!

Never be ashamed of where you come from: This was a lesson Pele learned about being true to himself but also true to his own heritage. This was said to Pele by his father after he lost a match to some wealthier boys. As mentioned above, Pele did not suppress using Ginga techniques to win the favor of those who deemed it "uncivilized". He stood in the face of the racist ideology by proving that his method of playing is what made him who he was. It is estimated that the Portuguese brought over 4 million enslaved Africans to Brazil which is a direct reflection of the culture Pele grew up in. Many of us are faced with the ideology that our cultures are "uncivilized" "unfashionable" and "backward" but little do they know that we come from cultures with rich histories that allowed them to become who they are today. As a Palestinian American, there still are those who deem my lived experience as unworthy, but still, I RISE!

The power of love and support: Pele's mother worried about her son's future. Living in poverty, his family worried about what would become of him and his siblings if they did not have a good education. Playing soccer was not a luxury they could afford. Once his parents realized his true talents, along with being recruited to play for various athletic clubs, Pele went on to lead his prolific career. His parents never stopped supporting him, showering him with love and making sure he always had a foundation that would help him through the many adversities he would later face. We all have our doubts but those who cheer us on, and who believe in our crazy ideas, are the ones who help us succeed. No person is an island alone. We all thrive on the energy given as support to help us continue even during times we know we cannot. I know without my own crew, I wouldn't be courageous enough to write this blog.

Pele has always been someone I respected but watching the movie triggered many life lessons. I highly recommend watching the movie to see what perspective you take. I would love for you to share your thoughts. If anything, I would say Pele gave me a new perspective on my own sense of self. OBRIGADA, PELE!

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