The football world is mourning the death of legendary Brazilian icon Pele, widely regarded as one of the best players of all time. His daughter Kely Nascimento announced the sad news on Thursday. Pele was 82.
“All that we are is thanks to you," Nascimento wrote on Instagram. “We love you endlessly. Rest in peace." Pele's agent Joe Fraga confirmed his death, saying: “The king has passed.”
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Nascimento had earlier posted heartbreaking photos of her lying with her father in his hospital bed. On Thursday she posted a photo of a number of hands in a circle, presumable of Pele and his family.
Dubbed the the standard-bearer of “the beautiful game”, Pele (whose given name was Edson Arantes do Nascimento) had been undergoing treatment for colon cancer since 2021. The medical centre where he had been hospitalised for the last month said he died of multiple organ failure as a result of the cancer.
He also had difficulty walking unaided since an unsuccessful hip operation in 2012. In February of 2020, just before the Covid-19 pandemic, his son Edinho said Pele's ailing physical state had left him depressed.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, Pelé spent nearly two decades dazzling fans and opponents alike, becoming the game’s most prolific scorer with Brazilian club Santos and the Brazilian national team. His grace and athleticism revolutionised the sport with a flair that personified his country’s elegance on the field.
He is the only man to win the World Cup three times (in 1958, 1962 and 1970), with only the late Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the same conversation for greatest player ever. He played 114 matches with Brazil, scoring a record 95 goals, including 77 in official matches.
Pele lifted six league titles with Santos, including five in a row from 1961-1968, as well as the Copa Libertadores twice. He retired from Santos in 1974 but a year later made a surprise comeback by signing a lucrative deal to join the New York Cosmos in the North American Soccer League. In an illustrious 21-year career he scored 1283 goals.
He was named "Athlete of the Century" by the International Olympic Committee, co-'Football Player of the Century' by FIFA, and a 'national treasure' by the Brazilian government. He remains Brazil’s all-time leading scorer with 77 goals, tied with Neymar after the 2022 tournament in Qatar.
In a short but powerful tribute, Santos posted a picture of a crown with just a single word 'eterno' – eternal. Brazil's Twitter account followed suit, sharing an image of Pele alongside the caption of 'eterno' but adding an infinity symbol instead of 2022 as the year of his death.
Football world reacts to heartbreaking news about Pele
Tributes have been flooding in from around the sporting world. Ronaldo wrote on Instagram: "My deepest condolences to all of Brazil, and in particular to the family of Mr. Edson Arantes do Nascimento. A mere 'goodbye' to the eternal King Pelé will never be enough to express the pain that currently embraces the entire world of football.
"An inspiration for so many millions, a reference from yesterday, today, forever. The affection he always showed for me was reciprocal in every moment we shared, even from a distance. He will never be forgotten and his memory will live on forever in each of us football lovers. Rest in peace King Pele."
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