By Ghulam Haider
Pelé, the legendary Brazilian virtuoso who rose from barefoot poverty to become one of the greatest and best-known athletes in modern history for his captivating skill and athleticism to become one of football’s greatest players in the history, has died at the age of 82.
The king of the beautiful game breathed his last due to multiple organ failures resulting from the progression of colon cancer associated with his previous medical condition at 3:27 am , read a statement by Sao Paulo’s Albert Einstein hospital , where Pele was undergoing treatment.
Pelé, who had a colon tumour removed in 2021, was readmitted to Albert Einstein hospital in São Paulo in November amid deteriorating health. A hospital statement on Thursday confirmed the death of “our dear King of Football” at 3.27pm local time, “due to the failure of multiple organs, a result of the progression of cancer of colon associated with his previous clinical condition.”
A statement from Pelé’s official Instagram page added: “Inspiration and love marked the journey of King Pelé, who peacefully passed away today. On his journey, Edson enchanted the world with his genius in sport, stopped a war, carried out social works all over the world and spread what he most believed to be the cure for all our problems: love. His message today becomes a legacy for future generations. Love, love and love, forever.”
Brazil’s joint all-time record scorer won three World Cups as a player in 1958, 1962 and 1970, over a 14-year international career that included 77 goals in 92 appearances for his country. Nicknamed “the Black Pearl” and “the King”, Pelé was one of only three players to have scored in four World Cups. In 1,363 games, he scored 1,281 goals, at the time of his retirement in 1977 more than twice as many as his nearest challenger.
It was the 1970 World Cup triumph for which he will be best celebrated, the linchpin of a beguiling team that included Carlos Alberto, Jairzinho, Gérson, Tostão and Rivelino that swept through Mexico, his canary yellow No 10 shirt becoming an icon of the sport.
World Soccer described Brazil’s 1970 winners as “more than a team”, adding: “The Brazilian side that won the 1970 World Cup in such style have become a myth, a team to be held up as the ultimate exponents of the beautiful game.” Pelé was their figurehead and inspiration.
Govt declares three days mourning
Brazil’s government declared three days of mourning and the arch at Wembley Stadium was lit in the colours of Brazil, while icons of sport and heads of state bowed to the man who rose up from childhood poverty to become a legend.
Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento on 23 October 1940, Pelé began his professional career at 15 and made his international debut a year later. In 1999, he was voted player of the century in a poll of Ballon d’Or winners and Time magazine named him as one of 100 most influential people of the 20th century.
In his prime, Pelé’s celebrity was such that he gained audiences with popes and heads of state, his allure so great that when the ill-fated New York Cosmos sought a marquee name to launch a soccer assault on America, Pelé was one of the very few footballers to be recognised by the wider American public in the 1970s.
Pelé previously underwent surgery in November 2012, having a hip replacement at a time when he was struggling to cope with life on the road, and had since suffered a urinary infection after having kidney surgery for the removal of stones.
In recent years Pelé had reduced his personal appearances, including in February 2020 when he did not attend a ceremony to unveil a statue of him representing the 1970 World Cup-winning team because of mobility problems that led to the Brazilian using walkers and wheelchairs in public.
João Saldanha, the coach who helped shape that 1970 side, once said: “Ask me who is the best right-back in Brazil, and I’ll say Pelé. Ask me about the best left-back or midfield man, or the best centre-forward. Always I must say Pelé. If he wants to be goalkeeper, he will be. There is only one Pelé.”
Tributes pore in
Brazil’s president-elect, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, said: “I had the privilege that younger Brazilians didn’t have: I saw Pele play, live, at Pacaembu and Morumbi. Play, no – I saw Pele give a show.
“Because when he got the ball he always did something special, which often ended up in a goal.”
Former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff wrote: “Thank you for the joy you gave the Brazilian people and the people of the world. No one has been a king so loved.”