Pele is the only player in World Cup history to have become world champion on three occasions. The world mourns one of the forces that shaped the face of football.
82-year-old Brazil legend Edson Arantes do Nascimento, popular as Pele, had been hospitalized since November. The three-time World Cup winner was suffering from multiple complications brought about by his colon cancer. Apart from respiratory infections, Pele was also suffering from kidney and heart problems.
In September 2021, Pele had a tumor removed from his kidney and was admitted to the Albert Einstein hospital in Sao Paulo on November 29.
Born and raised in the favelas of Tres Coracoes in Minas Gerais in 1940, Pele rose above the adversity growing up to become one of football’s greatest. He remains Brazil’s joint all-time top goal scorer, with 77 goals (same as Neymar) in 92 games. Pele also won the World Cup in 1958, 1962, and 1970.
In the 1958 World Cup final held in Sweden, Pele scored a brace in Brazil’s 5-2 win over the hosts. That game’s opening goal was indicative of his brilliance. He calmly controlled a deep pass into the box, dinked the ball over the strong Swedish defender Bengt Gustavsson, watched it fall from a high height, and then struck it on the volley into the bottom corner.
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Earlier this month Pele praised performances by captain Lionel Messi, rising French sensation Kylian Mbappe, and surprise semifinalist Morocco after Argentina’s World Cup victory on December 18 in Qatar. He also tweeted a photo of his team raising the trophy on social media.
Pele captioned, “Today, football continues to tell its story, as always, in an enthralling way…What a gift it was to watch this spectacle of the future of our sport.”
Pele received a standing ovation from Vasco da Gama and Santos fans on November 19, 1969, when he scored what was recognized as his 1000th career goal. Pele’s incredible prowess at finding the back of the net is placed into some form of perspective by the fact that he had not even turned 30 yet.
On Thursday, as the news spread, Kely Nascimento, Pele’s daughter, posted a homage to her father on Instagram along with a picture of her family holding his hand as he lay in a hospital bed. She captioned, “Everything we are is thanks to you. We love you infinitely. Rest in peace.”
Pele played a key part in efforts to eradicate corruption in Brazilian football after Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the president of Brazil, appointed him minister of sports in 1995. Pele’s Law, which was passed in 1998, is credited with modernizing the country’s administration of sport.
Former South Africa President, the late Nelson Mandela summed up Pele in the best and fewest words possible, “To watch him play was to watch the delight of a child combined with the extraordinary grace of a man.”