SAO PAULO (AP) — Pelé, the Brazilian soccer king who won a record three World Cups and became one of the most prominent sports figures of the last century, died Thursday. he was 82 years old.
the standard bearer of “the beautiful game” had been undergoing treatment for colon cancer since 2021. the medical center where he was hospitalized for the last month said that he died of multiple organ failure as a result of the cancer.
“Pelé changed everything. he transformed soccer into art, entertainment,” Neymar, another Brazilian soccer star, said on Instagram. “football and brazil raised their position thanks to the king! he is gone, but his magic will endure. Pelé is eternal!”
A funeral is planned for Monday and Tuesday, with his coffin to be carried through the streets of Santos, the coastal city where he began his storied career, before burial.
Widely regarded as one of soccer’s greatest players, Pele spent nearly two decades charming fans and dazzling opponents as the game’s most prolific goalscorer with Brazilian club Santos and the Brazil national team.
Her grace, athleticism and spellbinding moves captivated players and fans alike. he orchestrated a fast, flowing style that revolutionized the sport: a samba-like style that epitomized his country’s elegance on the pitch.
he took brazil to the heights of soccer and became a global ambassador for his sport on a journey that began on the streets of sao paulo state, where he kicked a sock full of newspapers or rags.
in the conversation about the best soccer players, only the late diego maradona, lionel messi and cristiano ronaldo are mentioned alongside pelé.
Different sources, counting different sets of games, list Pele’s goal totals between 650 (league matches) and 1,281 (all senior matches, some against lower-level competition).
The player who would be nicknamed “the king” was introduced to the world at age 17 at the 1958 world cup in sweden, the youngest player in the tournament. he was carried off the field on the shoulders of his teammates after scoring twice in Brazil’s 5-2 win over the host country in the final.
Injury limited him to just two games when Brazil retained the world title in 1962, but Pele was the poster child for his country’s 1970 World Cup triumph in Mexico. He scored in the final and set up Carlos Alberto with a carefree pass for the last goal in a 4-1 win over Italy.
an image of pelé in a bright yellow brazil jersey, with the no. 10 stamped on the back, it lives on with football fans everywhere. as is his trademark goal celebration: a jump with a right fist punching above his head.
Pele’s fame was such that in 1967 the factions of a civil war in Nigeria agreed to a brief ceasefire so that he could play an exhibition match in the country. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain in 1997. When he visited Washington to help popularize the game in North America, it was the United States. president who put out his hand first.
“My name is Ronald Reagan, I am the President of the United States of America,” the host told his visitor. “But you don’t have to introduce yourself because everyone knows who Pele is.”
Pelé was Brazil’s first modern black national hero, but he rarely spoke out about racism in a country where the rich and powerful tend to come from the white minority.
Rival fans taunted Pelé with monkey chants at home and around the world.
“He said he would never play if he had to stop every time he heard those chants,” said angelica basthi, one of pelé’s biographers. “He is key to the pride of blacks in Brazil, but he never wanted to be a standard bearer.”
Pelé’s life after soccer took many forms. He was a politician, the Extraordinary Minister of Sports of Brazil, a wealthy businessman and an ambassador for UNESCO and the United Nations.
He had roles in movies, soap operas and even composed songs and recorded CDs of popular Brazilian music.
As his health deteriorated, his travels and appearances became less frequent. He was often seen in a wheelchair during his later years and did not attend a ceremony to unveil a statue of him representing Brazil’s 1970 World Cup team. Pelé spent his 80th birthday in isolation with some members of his family in a house on the beach.
edson arantes do nascimento was born, in the small city of tres coracoes in the interior of the state of minas gerais on oct. On October 23, 1940, Pelé grew up shining shoes to buy his modest soccer team.
pelé’s talent caught everyone’s attention when he was 11 years old, and a local professional player took him to the youth ranks of santos. It didn’t take long for him to make it to the first team.
despite his youth and his 5’6″ height, he scored against grown men with the same ease he showed against his friends at home. He made his debut for the Brazilian club at age 16 in 1956, and the club quickly gained worldwide recognition.
the name pelé is due to his mispronouncing the name of a player named bilé.
He went to the 1958 World Cup as a reserve, but became a key player for his country’s champion team. His first goal, in which he blasted the ball over a defender’s head and ran around him to volley it home, was voted one of the best in world cup history.
the 1966 world cup in england, won by the hosts, was bitter for pelé, by then already considered the best player in the world. Brazil was eliminated in the group stage and Pelé, angry at the mistreatment, swore that it was his last World Cup.
he changed his mind and was rejuvenated in the 1970 world cup. in a match against england, he scored a header for an assured goal, but great goalkeeper gordon banks flicked the ball over the crossbar in an astonishing play. Pelé compared the save, one of the best in the history of the world cup, with a “salmon climbing a waterfall”. Later, he scored the first goal of the final against Italy, his last World Cup match.
in total, pelé played 114 caps for brazil, scoring a record 95 goals, including 77 in official matches.
His career with Santos spanned three decades until he partially retired after the 1972 season. Rich European clubs tried to sign him, but the Brazilian government intervened to prevent him from being sold, declaring him a national treasure.
On the pitch, Pelé’s energy, vision and imagination propelled a gifted Brazilian national team with a fast, fluid style of play that exemplified “o jogo bonito” – Portuguese for “the beautiful game.” his 1977 autobiography, “My Life and the Beautiful Game,” made the phrase part of the soccer lexicon.
In 1975, he joined the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League. Although at 34 years old and past his prime, Pelé gave soccer a higher profile in North America. he led the cosmos to the 1977 league title and scored 64 goals in three seasons.
pelé finished his career on oct. On January 1, 1977, at an exhibition between the Cosmos and Saints before a New Jersey crowd of some 77,000. he played half the game with each club. Among the dignitaries present was perhaps the only other athlete whose renown spanned the globe: Muhammad Ali.
Pelé would go through difficult times in his personal life, especially when his son Edinho was arrested on drug-related charges. Pelé had two daughters out of wedlock and five sons from her first two marriages, Rosemeri dos reis cholbi and Assiria seixas lemos. He later married businesswoman Marcia Cibele Aoki.
Azzoni reported from Madrid.
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