Were Pele, the Brazilian superstar of soccer the last two decades, as deft with his pen as he has been with his flashing feet, this autobiography would draw many new fans to the sport that is the most popular almost everywhere in the world but the United States.
Pele's accomplishments on the soccer field are stupendous. During a 17-year professional career in Brazil, he scored over 1,000 goals, a feat, coauthor Robert Fish tells us, roughly equivalent to Babe Ruth's having hit, 2,000 home runs, instead of only 714. Pele led Brazil to three world championships in the World Cup competition held every four years in which some 140 teams participate, which makes our so-called World Series seem a decidedly provincial event. A couple of years ago, Pele came out of retirement and he's currently playing his final season with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League.
Into his autobiography, Pele has shoved all the glories of his career, and everything else he can think of. The result is as unsatisfying as a score less game. Only in recounting some of the World Cup games does the book come alive. Too much of it deals with the ups and downs of his business activities - everything from plubing fixtures to public relations - which have brought him wealth and two brushes with bankruptcy.
There should be a good book in the life of a poor boy from small-town Brazil who ran and kicked his way to world-wide fame and adulation, but this isn't it. (Doubleday, $10)