By Florence Mafomemeh
Brazilian and global soccer legend, Pele has died at the age of 82 after complications from a respiratory infection and colon cancer. He was admitted to a hospital in São Paulo, Brazil in late November but his health had worsened last week as his cancer progressed. On Thursday, he died from multiple organ failures just one day after being transferred to end-of-life care because his body wasn’t responding anymore to chemo.
The Soccer Legend and three-time world cup winner seen here with is trophies died Thursday At 82
During his career, Pele played for his home team Santos, the Brazilian national team and the New York Cosmos. He was the only player to win the World Cup three times for his native Brazil and traveled the world playing with Santos and the Brazilian team. Called the global face of soccer, Pele scored an all-time record 1,281 goals in 1,363 matches for Santos (1956-74), the Brazilian national team, and the New York Cosmos (1975-77), defining him as the highest goal scorer in the history of professional soccer but the 5th only surpassed by Cristiano Ronaldo at the top followed by Josef Bican, Lionel Messi recently at the 2022 World Cup ahead of the Romario from the standpoint of goals recognized by FIFA.
For more than 60 years, the name Pelé has been synonymous with soccer. He played in four World Cups and is the only player in history to win three, but his legacy stretched far beyond his trophy haul and remarkable goal-scoring record.
The future star who would be dubbed “The King” was introduced to the world at 17 at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, the youngest player ever at the tournament. He was carried off the field on teammates’ shoulders after scoring two goals in Brazil’s 5-2 victory over the host country in the final. He debuted with the Brazilian club at 16 in 1956. He had many signature moves, including the “bicycle kick.”
Regarded as one of the greatest players of all time and labeled “the greatest” by FIFA Pele was among the most successful and popular sports figures of the 20th century. He was seen as the benchmark against whom all other great players measured. In an Instagram post, fellow Brazilian star Neymar Jr. idolized the world’s greatest soccer player and lover.
“Before Pelé, “10” was just a number. I read that phrase somewhere, at some point in my life. But that sentence, beautiful, is incomplete. I would say that before Pelé, football was just a sport. Pele changed everything. He turned football into art, into entertainment. He gave voice to the poor, to black people and mainly: He gave visibility to Brazil. Football and Brazil have raised their status thanks to the King! He is gone, but his magic will remain. Pele is ETERNAL!!” Following his emergence at the 1958 World Cup he was nicknamed O Rei (“The King”).
Pele helped popularize soccer in the U.S. in the 1970s. In 1975, he came out of retirement to play for the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League and bring awareness to the game in the U.S.. Although 34 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 ended his career in 1977, in an exhibition between the Cosmos and Santos before a sold-out crowd of some 77,000 at the Giants’ stadium in New Jersey. He played half the game with each club.
Regarded as the greatest player of all time, Pele was knighted by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in 1997.
Though Pelé was Brazil’s first modern Black national hero, he rarely spoke about racism in a country where the rich and powerful tend to hail from the white minority though he faced racial slurs as opposing fans taunted him with monkey chants at home and all over the world.
The standard bearer of “The Beautiful Game had a busy life after soccer. He was Brazil’s Extraordinary Minister for Sports and a wealthy businessman. In later years, Pele was an outspoken political voice who championed the poor in Brazil. He served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for many years, promoting peace and support for vulnerable children. He also had roles in movies, soap operas and even composed songs and recorded CDs of popular Brazilian music.
Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, in the small city of Tres Coracoes in the interior of Minas Gerais state in 1940, Pelé grew up shining shoes to buy his modest soccer gear.
Pelé would endure 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 children from his first two marriages, to Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi and Assiria Seixas Lemos. He later married businesswoman Marcia Cibele Aoki.
One fan was once asked, “how do you spell Pele?” He simply said, “GOD.”
Brazil announced three days of national mourning to honor The King before his funeral on Monday. Pele’s 100-year-old mother is still alive.