Football star Pele, a Brazilian legend of the beautiful game, has died at the age of 82

SAO PAULO, Dec 29 (Reuters) – Legendary Brazilian soccer player Pele, who rose from barefoot poverty to become one of the best and most recognizable athletes in modern history, died on Thursday at the age of 82.

Sao Paulo’s Albert Einstein Hospital, where Pele was being treated, said he died at 3:27 p.m. “due to multiple organ failure resulting from the development of colon cancer related to his previous medical condition.”

The death of the only man to win the World Cup three times as a player has been confirmed on his Instagram account.

“Inspiration and love mark the journey of King Pele, who passed away peacefully today,” it said, adding that he “mesmerized the world with his genius at sport, stopped war, carried out social work around the world and spread what many believe is the solution to all our problems: love.”

Tributes poured in from across the worlds of sport, politics and popular culture for a man who epitomized Brazil’s dominance in the beautiful game.

The government of outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro on Sunday declared three days of mourning and said in a statement that Pele was “an outstanding citizen and patriot who raises the name of Brazil wherever he goes.”

Bolsonaro’s successor, president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, wrote on Twitter: “Some Brazilians took our country’s name to what he did.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said Pele’s legacy will live on forever. “Sport. King. Eternal,” Macron tweeted.

Pele has been undergoing chemotherapy since a tumor was removed from his colon in September 2021.

After unsuccessful hip surgery in 2012 he had difficulty walking without assistance. In February 2020, ahead of the coronavirus pandemic, Pele’s son Edinho said that Pele’s health had left him depressed.

On Monday, a 24-hour vigil will be held at Santos Stadium in the heart of the stadium for Pele, who started playing as a teenager and quickly rose to fame.

The next day, a procession carrying his coffin will wind through the streets of Santos, past the neighborhood where his 100-year-old mother lives, and end at the Ecumenical Memorial Necropolis Cemetery, where he will be buried in a private ceremony.

‘What is possible’

US President Joe Biden said on Twitter that Pele’s rise from humble beginnings to football legend is a story of “what is possible”.

Pele, born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, joined Santos in 1956 and turned the small beach club into one of the most famous names in football.

Apart from the regional and national titles, Pele won two Copa Libertadores, the South American equivalent of the Champions League, and two Continental Cups, which are held annually between the top teams in Europe and South America.

He took home three World Cup winners’ medals, the first in Sweden in 1958 as a 17-year-old, the second in Chile – despite missing most of the tournament through injury – and the third in Mexico in 1970. , when he was considered one of the best teams to play the game.

He retired from Santos in 1974, but made a surprise comeback a year later by signing a lucrative contract to join the New York Cosmos.

In an illustrious 21-year career he scored between 1,281 and 1,283 goals, depending on how matches are counted.

However, Pele became one of the first global icons of the 20th century, surpassing any player before or since football.

With his winning smile and an unabashed humility that captivated legions of fans, he is better known than many Hollywood stars, popes or presidents — many, if not all, of whom he met during a six-decade career as a player and corporate pitchman. .

“I’m sad, but I’m proud to be Brazilian, from Pele’s country, who was a great athlete,” said Ciro Campos, a 49-year-old biologist in Rio de Janeiro. “And off the field, he’s a great person, not an arrogant athlete.”

Pele admired his one-of-a-kind talent, creative genius and technical ability as a young man playing pick-up games in small-town Brazil. ball.

Pele was named “Athlete of the Century” by the International Olympic Committee, “Footballer of the Century” by FIFA, the world football governing body, and “National Treasure” by the Brazilian government.

His popularity was often high. Grown adults regularly wept in his presence. When he was a player, souvenir-seeking fans rushed the stadium following games and tore off his shorts, socks and even underwear.

His home in Brazil was less than a mile from the beach, but he hadn’t been there in two decades because of his fear of crowds.

Yet in moments of insecurity among friends, he rarely complained. He believed his talent was a gift from God, and talked about how soccer allowed him to travel the world, cheer on cancer patients and survivors of war and famine, and provide for a growing, often unknown family. source of their next meal.

“God gave me this ability for one reason: to make people happy,” he told Reuters during a 2013 interview. “Whatever I did, I tried not to forget it.”

Brazil’s CBF football federation said, “Pele is more than the greatest athlete of all time… Brazil’s ultimate king of soccer to win.”

French star Kylian Mbappe, considered by many to be the current best footballer in the world, also offered his condolences.

“The king of football has left us but his legacy will never be forgotten,” he wrote on Twitter. “Rip King.”

Reporting by Andrew Downey and Gabriel Araujo; Additional reporting by Peter Frontini, Carolina Pulis and Sergio Queiroz; Editing by Gabriel Stargarder, Daniel Wallis and Rosalba O’Brien

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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