Pele’s little known film career: When football great starred with Sylvester Stallone and appeared in his own biopic

Apart from being one of the greatest footballers ever, Pele also had an impressive career in entertainment, starring in several films and shows.

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Pele and Sylvester Stallone in Escape to Victory

Brazillian football legend Pele passed away on Friday morning at the age of 80. Largely regarded as one of the greatest ever to play the game, Pele ruled the world of football for over a decade. But in between, and afterwards, he found time to have an enviable career in showbiz. This included appearances in Brazillian telenovela, Hollywood films, and documentaries as well.

In 1969, when he was at the peak of his career playing for Santos in the Brazillian league, he made his debut as an actor in Os Estranhos, a Brazilian telenovela. Pele played Plínio Pompeu, a man who comes into contact with aliens in this sci-fi show. As he continued to play for the next few years, Pele acted in a couple of more Brazillian productions.

In 1981, he played his most memorable role in the Hollywood multi-starrer Escape to Victory. The sports war film followed prisoners of war in World War II playing a game of football against a German team to win their victory. Pele played Trinidadian soldier Corporal Luis Fernandez and starred alongside Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone, as well as fellow football great Bobby Moore. In the film, Pele recreated his famous bicycle kick goal, which featured as the winning goal for the heroes against the Nazis.

His next big outing was the 1986 comedy Hotshot, where he played a fictionalised version of himself in a tale of an American footballer trying to get coached by Pele. The retired footballer then starred in two Brazillian comedies - Os Trapalhões e o Rei do Futebol and Solidão, Uma Linda História de Amor.


Pele’s final appearance on the big screen was rather special. In 2016, he appeared in a cameo as an unnamed man in his own biopic Pelé: Birth of a Legend. The football great’s inclusion was a meta nod to his approval of the film. The film had an Indian connect as well. It’s music was composed by AR Rahman.

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