Soccer star Pele, Brazilian legend of the beautiful game, dies at 82

Soccer star Pele, Brazilian legend of the beautiful game, dies at 82

SAO PAULO, Dec 29 (Reuters) – Pele, the legendary Brazilian footballer who rose from barefoot poverty to become one of the greatest and most popular sportsmen in modern history, died on Thursday at the age of 82.

The Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo, where Pele was undergoing treatment, said he died at 3:27 p.m. “due to multiple organ failure resulting from the progression of colon cancer related to his previous condition medical”.

The death of the only player to win the World Cup three times was confirmed on his Instagram account.

“Inspiration and love marked the journey of King Pele, who passed away peacefully today,” it said, adding that he had “enthralled the world with his sporting genius, stopped a war, done social work in around the world and had spread what most believe to be the cure for all our problems: love.”

Tributes poured in from across the world of sport, politics and popular culture for a figure who epitomized Brazil’s dominance of the beautiful game.

The government of President Jair Bolsonaro, who leaves office on Sunday, declared three days of mourning and said in a statement that Pele was “a great citizen and patriot, raising the name of Brazil wherever he went.”

Bolsonaro’s successor, President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, tweeted that “few Brazilians carried the name of our country as much as he did.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said Pele’s legacy will live on forever. “Game. King. Eternity,” Macron tweeted.

Pele had been undergoing chemotherapy since having a colon tumor removed in September 2021.

He has also struggled to walk unaided since an unsuccessful hip operation in 2012. In February 2020, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, his son Edinho said Pele’s ailing physical condition had left him depressed.

On Monday, a 24-hour vigil will be held for Pele in the center of the pitch at Santos Stadium, his hometown club where he started playing as a teenager and quickly rose to fame.

The next day, a cortege carrying his casket will wind through the streets of Santos, past the neighborhood where his 100-year-old mother lives, and end at the Ecumenical Memorial Necropolis cemetery, where he will be buried in a private ceremony.


US President Joe Biden said on Twitter that Pele’s rise from humble beginnings to football legend was a story of “what is possible”.

Pele, whose name was Edson Arantes do Nascimento, joined Santos in 1956 and turned the small coastal club into one of football’s most famous names.

[1/4] Legendary Brazilian soccer player Pele waves to spectators before kick-off of the Subroto Cup boys under-17 soccer final match at the Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi, India October 16, 2015. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee

In addition to a host of regional and national titles, Pele won two Copa Libertadores, the South American equivalent of the Champions League, and two Intercontinental Cups, the annual tournament held between the best teams in Europe and South America.

He took home three World Cup winners’ medals, the first as a 17-year-old in Sweden in 1958, the second in Chile four years later – despite missing most of the tournament through injury – and the third in Mexico in 1970, when he led what is considered to be one of the greatest teams to ever play.

He retired from Santos in 1974, but a year later made a surprising comeback by signing a lucrative deal to join the New York Cosmos in the then-nascent North American Soccer League.

In an illustrious 21-year career he scored between 1,281 and 1,283 goals, depending on how the games are counted.

However, Pele transcended football like no player before or since, and he became one of the first global icons of the 20th century.

With his winning smile and an awe-inspiring humility that captivated legions of fans, he was better known than many Hollywood stars, popes or presidents – many, if not most, of whom he met during a six-decade playing career. and corporate pilot. .

“I’m sad, but I’m also proud to be Brazilian, to be from the country of Pele, a guy who was a great athlete,” said Ciro Campos, a 49-year-old biologist in Rio de Janeiro. And also off the field, he was a cool person, not an arrogant athlete.”

Pele credited his unique blend of talent, creative genius and technical ability to a young man who had spent his days playing wheelie games in small-town Brazil, often using grapefruit or rags because his family could not it bore a truth. ball.

Pele was named “Athlete of the Century” by the International Olympic Committee, co-“Footballer of the Century” by world soccer body FIFA and a “national treasure” by the Brazilian government.

His celebrity was often overwhelming. Adults burst into tears in his presence with regularity. When he was a player, souvenir-seeking fans rushed the field after games and tore off his shorts, socks and even his underwear.

His home in Brazil was less than a mile from a beach, but he didn’t go there for nearly two decades because of his fear of crowds.

However, even in vulnerable moments between friends, he rarely complained. He believed his talent was a gift from God and spoke movingly of how football allowed him to travel the world, bring joy to cancer patients and survivors of war and famine, and provide for a family that, growing up, often he didn’t know. the source of their next meal.

“God gave me this ability for one reason: To make people happy,” he said during a 2013 interview with Reuters. “No matter what I did, I tried not to forget that.”

Brazil’s CBF football federation said “Pele was much more than the greatest sportsman of all time… The King of Football was the ultimate exponent of a victorious Brazil.”

Kylian Mbappé, the French star who many consider the best current footballer in the world, also offered his condolences.

“The king of football has left us, but his legacy will never be forgotten,” he wrote on Twitter. “RIP KING.”

Reporting by Andrew Downie and Gabriel Araujo; Additional reporting by Peter Frontini, Carolina Pulice and Sergio Queiroz; Editing by Gabriel Stargardter, Daniel Wallis and Rosalba O’Brien

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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