Sao Paulo, Brazil
Pelé, the Brazilian soccer legend who won three World Cups and became the sport’s first global icon, has died at the age of 82.
“Everything we are is thanks to you,” his daughter Kely Nascimento wrote in an Instagram post, under a photo of family members holding Pela’s hand. “We love you infinitely. May you rest in peace.”
Pelé was admitted to a São Paulo hospital in late November due to a respiratory infection and complications related to colon cancer. Last week, the hospital said his condition was worsening as his cancer progressed. He died Thursday of multiple organ failure due to colon cancer, according to a statement from Albert Einstein Hospital.
For more than 60 years, the name Pele has been synonymous with disease. He played in four World Cups and is the only player in history to win three, but his legacy extends far beyond his trophy haul and outstanding goal scoring record.
“I was born to play football, like Beethoven was born to write music and Michael Angelo was born to paint,” Pelé famously said.
Infusing tributes for the legendary asset. Pelé’s first club, Santos FC, responded to the news on Twitter with the words “eternal” next to a picture of the crown shared.
Brazilian footballer Neymar said Pele “changed everything.” In an Instagram post, he wrote: “It turns football into art, into entertainment. He gave a voice to the poor, black people and most of all: he gave visibility in Brazil. “Football and Brazil have their status thanks to the King!” he added.
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Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo sent his condolences to Brazil in an Instagram post, saying “a mere goodbye” to the eternal King Pele will never be enough to express the pain that is now flooding the entire football world.”
Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappé said of Pele’s death: “The king of football has left us, but his legacy will never be forgotten.”
Geoff Hurst wrote on Twitter of his memories of Pele, the star recently calling “without a doubt the best football player I ever played against (with Bobby Moore being the best football player I ever played). To me, Pele remains the greatest player of all time and I would be proud of that pitch. RIP Pele and thank you.”
Brazil’s incoming president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took to Twitter to salute Pelé, saying “few Brazilians have embraced the name of their country as much as he did.”
“As the language differs from Portuguese, foreigners from the four corners of the planet soon found a way to pronounce the magic word: ‘Pelé,'” added Lula.
Pelé’s public funeral will be held on Monday at the Urbano Caldeira stadium, commonly known as Vila Belmiro, and home to Santos football club, in the Brazilian state of São Paulo, according to a Thursday statement from Santos FC.
On Monday morning, Pele’s body will be moved from the Albert Einstein Hospital stadium. A pocket for reading the disease will be placed in the middle of the pitch.
The vigil at Vila Belmiro will continue until Tuesday at 10 am local (8 am ET), after which the funeral procession will carry Pele’s casket through the streets of the city of Santos, including the street where Peles’ 100-year-old mother, Celeste. Arantes lives.
The cortege will continue to Pelé’s final resting place, the Necrópole Ecumênica Memorial Cemetery in Santos, where a private funeral will be reserved for family members.
Pelé was born Edson Arantes do Nascimento in Três Corações – an inland city about 155 miles northwest of Rio de Janeiro – in 1940, before his family moved to the city of Bauru in São Paulo.
The genesis of the surname Pele is hidden until the footballer. He once wrote in the British Guardian newspaper that he probably started playing with his schoolmates to rip off the nickname of another player, Bile. Whatever the origin, the moniker stuck.
As a boy, he got his first taste of soccer playing barefoot with socks and cloths wrapped in a ball – a humble beginning that would grow into a long and productive life.
But when he first took up the game, he was ambitious.
“My father was a good player, he scored a lot of goals,” Pelé told CNN in 2015. “His name is Dondinho; I wanted to be like him.
He was famous in Brazil, in Minas Gerais. He was a role model for me. I always wanted to be like him, but what happened today, only God can explain.
As a teenager, Pelé left home and began training with Santos, his first goal of working for the club side before his third birthday. He would go on to make 619 appearances in 638 appearances for the club, but it was his performance in the iconic yellow jersey of Brazil that he is best remembered for.
The world first got a glimpse of Pela’s shining ability in 1958, when he made his World Cup debut aged 17. He scored Brazil’s only goal in the country’s fourth-round victory against Wales, then headed into the semifinal against France and netted two in a tie. the last against the army of Sweden.
“When Pelé scored the fifth goal in that final, I have to be honest and say I felt applauded,” said Sigvard Parling of Sweden.
For Pele, the outstanding memory of the tournament was putting his country on the playing board.
“When we won the World Cup, everybody knew about Brazil,” said CNN’s Don Riddell in 2016. “I think this was the biggest gift to the country that we were known for after the World Cup.”
Another World Cup victory came in 1962, although Pele was later sidelined for the tournament injured. In addition, injuries left the group stage in the next campaign in 1966 in Brazil, but redemption came in 1970.
“Pelé said we were going to win, and if Pele said we were going to win the World Cup,” Brazil co-captain Carlos Alberto said of the tournament.
That team – featuring the likes of Jairzinho, Gerson, Tostão, Rivellino, and, of course, Pelé – was among the greatest ever assembled.
In the final – a 4-1 victory against Italy – Brazil scored arguably the most famous World Cup goal of all time, a sweeping, length-of-the-pitch move that featured nine of the team’s 10 outfield players.
It ended with Alberto Pele teeing off, who drilled the ball into the bottom corner of the net. Brazil’s mantra of jogo bonito (the fair game) has never been better encapsulated.
Pelé, who had planned to retire before the 1970 World Cup, scored his goal in the final and a total of four through the tournament.
“Before the match, I told Pele that I am just flesh and bones like the rest of us,” Italy defender Tarcisio Burgnich said after his defeat in the final. “Later I realized I was wrong.”
The tournament capped Pelé’s World Cup career in the spotlight. In 1975, he signed a contract in the United States with the New York Cosmos for $.67-million-a-year.
With his larger-than-life personality and extraordinary finishing skills – a trademark of his game – he helped Pele Cosmos win the North American Soccer Federation championship in 1977 before officially retiring from football.
The league, which attracted several big names such as Giorgio Chinaglia and Franz Beckenbauer, would not have been folded for the last time in 1984. But around the world, Pele’s influence was sustained.
He remained in the public eye through signature acts and as a free political voice that defended the poor in Brazil. She has served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for many years, promoting peace and support for vulnerable children.
Health issues continued for much of Pela’s later life. He was put on a walker’s aid – also in a film released last year in a film about contempt – and in September 2021 he underwent surgery to remove a tumor from his right colon.
Pele’s cancer treatment continued last year. In November, the Sao Paulo hospital hosted the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, an outpouring of support from the global soccer community and beyond.
Debate will inevitably rage over whether Pelé is the greatest player of all time – whether Pele can compare his achievements with Cristiano Ronaldo or Leonello Messi, who rewrote soccer’s books over the past 15 years, or with Diego Maradona, the late Argentinian star who took the world by storm in the 1980s and 90s.
In 2000, FIFA jointly named Maradona and Pelé as the Player of the Century, but for some it should be clear that the winner is definitely the winner.
“This debate about the game of the century is absurd,” said Zico, who has represented Brazil in the decade since Peles’ retirement. “There is only one possible answer: Pele. He is the greatest player of all time, and by some distance.
It is unclear exactly how many goals Pelé scored in his career, and his Guinness World Records tally comes under scrutiny with many scored in private matches.
In March 2021, Portugal congratulated Ronaldo for “passing the record of goals in official matches” – 767.
There is no doubt, however, that Pelé was, and always will be, the first global football superstar.
“If I get through one day, I’m happy because I tried to do my best,” he told Narratives online magazine. “My game has allowed me to do so much that it is the greatest game in the world.”