Pele, the Brazilian king of football who won a record three World Cups and went on to become one of the most famous sports figures of the last century, passed away on December 29, 2022. He was 82.
Since 2021, Pele had been diagnosed of colon cancer. He had been hospitalized for a month with a number of illnesses.
Kely Nascimento, his daughter, posted a message on Instagram that read,
“All that we are is thanks to you. We love you endlessly. Rest in peace.”
His agent, Joe Fraga, confirmed his death:
“The king has passed.”
Pele, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in football, was the game’s most prolific scorer for nearly two decades with the Brazilian club Santos and the Brazil national team. During that time, he captivated fans and dazzled opponents.
When he was playing, players and fans were captivated by his athleticism and mesmerizing moves. He orchestrated a quick, fluid style that changed the sport. It was like samba and embodied the elegance of his country on the field.
In a journey that began on the streets of Sao Paulo state, where he would kick a sock filled with newspapers or rags, he led Brazil to football’s heights and became a global ambassador for his sport.
Along with Pele, only Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and the late Diego Maradona are mentioned in discussions about football’s greatest players.
Pele’s goal totals range from 650 (league games) to 1,281 (all senior games, some against low-level competition) according to various sources that count different sets of games.
At the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, the player who became known as “The King” was just 17 years old, making him the youngest player ever to compete in the competition.
After scoring two goals in Brazil’s 5-2 final victory over the host nation, he was carried off the field by teammates.
He only played two games in 1962 when he was injured, but Pele was the face of Brazil’s victory in the World Cup in Mexico in 1970.
He scored in the championship game and casually passed to Carlos Alberto, who scored the game-winning goal against Italy in a 4-1 victory.
The image of Pele wearing a vibrant yellow Brazil jersey and carrying the number 10, which is stamped on the back, is still popular with football fans worldwide. As does his brand name destination festival – – a jump with a right clench hand push high over his head.
Because of his fame, Nigeria’s civil war factions agreed to a brief cease-fire in 1967 so that Pele could play an exhibition match there.
In 1997, British Queen Elizabeth II bestowed the knighthood upon him. When he went to Washington to promote the game in North America, the president of the United States held out his hand first.
The host introduced himself to the guest by saying,
I’m the president of the United States of America,” the host said to his visitor. “But you don’t need to introduce yourself because everyone knows who Pele is.”
In a nation where the wealthy and powerful typically come from the white minority, Pele, the first modern Black national hero, rarely discussed racism.
Pele was the target of monkey chants from opposing fans throughout the world and at home.
Angelica Basthi, one of Pele’s biographers, stated,
“He said that he would never play if he had to stop every time he heard those chants.
“He is key for Black people’s pride in Brazil, but never wanted to be a flagbearer.”
After football, Pele lived many different lives. He was a politician – – Brazil’s Exceptional minister of sports – – a rich businessman, and an ambassador for UNESCO and the United Nations.
He played roles in films and dramas, and he even created tunes and recorded Compact discs of well known Brazilian music.
His appearances and travels decreased as his health deteriorated. During his final years, he was frequently seen in a wheelchair, and he did not attend a ceremony to unveil a statue of him representing Brazil’s World Cup team from 1970.
Pele spent his 80th birthday at a beach house alone with a few family members.
Pele was born Edson Arantes do Nascimento on Oct. 23, 1940, in the small city of Tres Coracoes in the interior of the state of Minas Gerais. As a child, he polished shoes to pay for his modest football boots.
When Pele was 11 years old, his talent caught the attention of a local professional player, who brought him to the Santos youth squads. He made the senior team in a short amount of time.
He scored against grown men with the same ease he scored against friends back home, despite his youth and 5-foot-8 frame.
He appeared with the Brazilian club at 16 of every 1956, and the club immediately earned overall respect.
Because he mispronounced the name of a player named ‘Bile’, he was given the nickname Pele.
He was a reserve for the 1958 World Cup, but he ended up playing a big role on the winning team for his country. His first goal, in which he volleyed the ball home after flicking the ball over a defender’s head and racing around him, was voted one of the best in World Cup history.
Pele, who was already regarded as the best player in the world at the time, was bitter about England’s 1966 World Cup victory. Pele declared that he would never play in another World Cup after Brazil was eliminated in the group stage.
During the 1970 World Cup, he changed his mind and got a new lease on life. He scored with a header against England, but the great goalkeeper Gordon Banks made an astonishing move by flipping the ball over the bar. One of the greatest saves in World Cup history, Pele compared it to “salmon climbing up a waterfall.”
Later, in his final World Cup match, against Italy, he scored the opening goal. Pele scored a record 95 goals in 114 Brazil games, 77 of which came in official matches.
He spent three decades with Santos before entering semi-retirement following the 1972 season.
All the wealthy clubs in Europe attempted to sign him, but the Brazilian government intervened and declared him a national treasure to prevent his sale.
Pele’s energy, vision, and imagination on the field led a talented Brazilian national team to a fast, fluid style of play that exemplified the “o jogo bonito,” which means “the beautiful game,” in Portuguese.
The expression entered football lingo, thanks to his autobiography “My Life and the Beautiful Game,” published in 1977. He joined the North American Soccer League’s New York Cosmos in 1975.
Pele elevated football’s profile in North America, even though he was 34 years old and past his prime.
He scored 64 goals in three seasons and led the Cosmos to the league championship in 1977.
On October 1, 1977, Pele ended his career in an exhibition match between the Cosmos and Santos in front of approximately 77,000 people in New Jersey.
He played with each club for half of the game.
Muhammad Ali, perhaps the only other athlete whose fame extended across the globe, was among the dignitaries present.
Pele’s personal life would be fraught with difficulties, particularly when his son Edinho was detained on drug-related charges.
Pele had five children from his first two marriages to Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi and Assiria Seixas Lemos, including two unwed daughters.
He got married to Marcia Cibele Aoki, a businesswoman.