Pelé, the Brazilian virtuoso whose captivating skills and athleticism have earned him universal acclaim as one of football’s greatest players, has died aged 82.
Pele, who had a colon tumor removed in 2021, was readmitted to Albert Einstein Hospital in São Paulo in November amid deteriorating health. A hospital statement confirmed the death of ‘our dear King of Football’ at 3:27 p.m. local time on Thursday, ‘due to multiple organ failure, a result of the progression of colon cancer associated with his clinical condition. prior”.
A statement from Pelé’s official Instagram page added: “Inspiration and love marked the journey of King Pelé, who passed away peacefully today. During his journey, Edson enchanted the world with his genius sports, stopped a war, carried out social actions around the world and spread what he believed most to be the cure for all our problems: love. His message now becomes a legacy for future generations. Love , love and love, forever.
After reporting that he was receiving end-of-life care, Pele said he felt “strong, very hopeful” in a social media post on December 3. Another statement from the hospital on December 21 reported that Pele “required additional care related to kidney and heart dysfunction” after his colon cancer “progressed”. His daughter Kely Nascimento’s social media posts showed family members gathered at the hospital to spend Christmas with him.
Brazil’s all-time top scorer won three World Cups as a player, in 1958, 1962 and 1970, during a 14-year international career that included 77 goals in 92 appearances for his country. Nicknamed “the Black Pearl” and “the King”, Pelé was one of only three players to score in four World Cups. In 1,363 games he scored 1,281 goals, by the time of his retirement in 1977, more than double his nearest challenger.
It was the 1970 World Cup triumph for which he will be best celebrated, the kingpin of an alluring side that included Carlos Alberto, Jairzinho, Gérson, Tostão and Rivelino that swept through Mexico, his canary yellow jersey No. 10 becoming an icon of the sport. .
World Soccer described Brazil’s 1970 winners as “more than a team”, adding: “The Brazilian team that won the 1970 World Cup in such style has become a myth, a team to be considered as the ultimate representatives of the beautiful game”. Pelé was their figurehead and their inspiration.
Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento on October 23, 1940, Pelé began his professional career at 15 and made his international debut a year later. In 1999 he was voted Player of the Century in a poll of Ballon d’Or winners and Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.
At his peak, Pelé’s fame was such that he won audiences with popes and heads of state, his appeal so great that when the ill-fated New York Cosmos sought a brand name to launch a footballing assault on America, Pelé was one of the very few footballers recognized by the American mainstream in the 1970s.
Pele had previously undergone surgery in November 2012, having had a hip replacement at a time when he was struggling to cope with life on the road, and had since suffered from a urinary tract infection after undergoing surgery renal for stone removal.
In recent years, Pelé had reduced his personal appearances, including in February 2020 when he failed to attend a ceremony to unveil a statue of him representing the 1970 World Cup-winning team due to health issues. mobility that had led the Brazilian to use walkers and wheelchairs in public. .
João Saldanha, the coach who helped shape that 1970 team, once said: “Ask me who is the best right-back in Brazil, and I’ll tell you Pelé. Ask me what’s the best left-back or midfielder, or the best centre-forward. Always I have to say Pelé. If he wants to be a goalkeeper, he will be. There is only one Pelé.