Brazil football legend Pele dies aged 82

Pele, arguably the greatest player ever, has died at the age of 82.

Pelé was admitted to a hospital in São Paulo in late November for a respiratory infection and for complications related to colon cancer. Last week, the hospital said his health had worsened as his cancer progressed. He died on Thursday from multiple organ failure due to the progression of colon cancer, according to a statement from Albert Einstein Hospital.

President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro has declared three days of national mourning.

On Tuesday, there will be a procession through the streets of Santos in Sao Paulo to a private family burial.

Pelé was born Edson Arantes do Nascimento on October 23, 1940. He got the nickname Pelé when he was a young boy and had trouble pronouncing the name of his favorite player, a goalkeeper named Bilé who played with his father at a local club.

As a teenager, Pelé left home and began training with Santos, scoring his first goal for the club side before his 16th birthday. He would go on to score 619 times over 638 appearances for the club, but it is his feats in the iconic yellow jersey of Brazil for which he is best remembered.

The world first got a glimpse of Pelé’s dazzling ability in 1958, when he made his World Cup debut aged 17. He scored Brazil’s only goal in the country’s quarterfinal victory against Wales, then netted a hat-trick in the semifinal against France and two in the final against host Sweden.

For Pelé, the standout memory from the tournament was putting his country on the sporting map.

“When we won the World Cup, everybody knew about Brazil,” he told CNN’s Don Riddell in 2016. “I think this was the most important thing I gave to my country because we were well known after that World Cup.”

Another World Cup victory came in 1962, although an injury sidelined Pelé for the tournament’s later stages. Further injuries hampered his next campaign in 1966 as Brazil exited the competition after the group stage, but redemption came in 1970.

That team – featuring the likes of Jairzinho, Gerson, Tostão, Rivellino, and, of course, Pelé – is regarded as one of the greatest ever assembled.

In the final – a 4-1 victory against Italy – Brazil scored arguably the most famous World Cup goal of all time, a sweeping, length-of-the-pitch move involving nine of the team’s 10 outfield players. It ended with Pelé teeing up Alberto, who drilled the ball into the bottom corner of the net. Brazil’s mantra of jogo bonito (the beautiful game) has never been better encapsulated.

The tournament capped Pelé’s World Cup career but not his time in the spotlight. In 1975, he signed a $1.67-million-a-year contract in the United States with the New York Cosmos.

In 2000, FIFA jointly named Maradona and Pelé as Player of the Century, but to some, the outright winner of the award should have been obvious.

“This debate about the player of the century is absurd,” said Zico, who represented Brazil in the decade after Pelé’s retirement. “There’s only one possible answer: Pelé. He’s the greatest player of all time, and by some distance, I might add.”

Poll conducted by BBC Sport in 2020 agreed with Zico, Pele was voted the greatest player, ahead of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Diego Maradona and Johan Cruyff.

In the same year his fellow 1970 World Cup winner Carlos Alberto said:

“In music there is Beethoven and the rest. In football, there is Pele and the rest,”

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During a 21-year career, Pele scored 77 goals in 92 matches for his country.

The Brazilian Football Confederation and Santos say Pele scored 1,283 goals in 1,367 matches, while Fifa claims it was 1,281 goals in 1,366 games. He Racked up 126 goals in 1959 alone.

The Superstar also made 14 appearances at World Cup finals, scoring 12 goals and he is the only player to win three World Cups.

The Brazilian Football Confederation said: “Pele was much more than the greatest sportsperson of all time.

“Our king of football was the greatest exponent of a victorious Brazil, who was never afraid when faced with difficulty. He promised his father a World Cup and he presented us with three.

“The King gave us a new Brazil and we are so thankful for his legacy. Thank you, Pele.”

Before Pelé, ’10′ was just a number. Rest in peace, King Pelé.

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