Football legend, Pele dies at 82
Brazilian legend Pelé has died at 82, the family announced on Thursday evening.
The late Pele was regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time.
Three days ago, Pele was seen making a video call from his hospital bed and the caption on the video claims he is saying goodbye to family and friends.
The condition of the three-time world champion has deteriorated. A viral video shows him struggling to breathe.
The 82-year-old, who had a tumour removed from his colon in September 2021, was admitted to the Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein in Sao Paulo on November 29, 2022.
He remained at the hospital on Christmas day with his loved ones by his side. His daughter vowed to be there for him as he receives care in the hospital after his cancer progressed.
In the recent video going viral, Pele is seen surrounded by two ladies who held a phone in front of him while he passed a message across.
Bobby Charlton said that football might have been “invented for him”. Certainly, most commentators regard him as the finest exponent of the beautiful game.
Pele’s skill and electrifying speed were coupled with deadly accuracy in front of the goal.
A national hero in his native Brazil, he became a global sporting icon.
And, off the field, he campaigned tirelessly to improve conditions for the most deprived people in society.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento was born on 23 October 1940 in Tres Coracoes, a city in south-eastern Brazil.
His birth certificate states he was born on 21 October, but Pele insisted that was incorrect: “In Brazil, we’re not so fussy about accuracy.”
Pele playing for Brazil in 1960
He was named after the inventor, Thomas Alva Edison, because, according to Pele, electricity arrived at his home just before he did.
Later his parents dropped the “i” from his name.
He grew up in relative poverty in the city of Bauru and contributed to the family’s income by getting part-time jobs in local cafes.
His father taught him to play football, but the family could not afford a ball – so the young Pele often kicked a rolled-up sock around the street.
It was at school that he was first dubbed Pele by his friends, although neither he nor any of them, have any idea what it means.
He never much liked the nickname, feeling that it sounded too much like “baby talk” in Portuguese.
Pele was deadly accurate in front of the goal
He began playing for a number of local amateur teams when he was in his teens.
Indoor football had just started to become popular in the area, and the young Pele relished the change of playing surface.
“I took to it like a fish to water,” he later said. “It’s a lot quicker than football on grass – you have to think really quickly.”
He also led Bauru Athletic Club juniors to three state youth championships, establishing himself as a bright talent.
In 1956, his coach, Waldemar de Brito, took him to the port city of Santos to try out for Santos FC, a professional team.
Pele playing for Santos FC
De Brito was already convinced of his protégé’s abilities, boasting to the Santos directors that Pele would be the best footballer in the world.
Pele more than lived up to the boast, impressing Santos who offered him a contract in June 1956. He was just 15 years old.
A year later, he was selected for the Santos senior team and scored the first of his many career goals in his opening match.
He quickly earned a starting place in the side and in his first year became the league’s top scorer.
Just 10 months after signing as a professional, Pele was called up by the Brazilian national team.
Pele was still a teenager when he was first picked to play for Brazil
He made his international debut against Argentina at the Maracana, where Brazil lost 2-1.
Their goal was scored by a 16-year-old Pele, making him the youngest player to score in an international.
His hopes of playing for Brazil in the 1958 World Cup seemed to have been dashed when he suffered a knee injury.
But his teammates pressured the management to select him and he made his World Cup debut against the USSR.
Inevitably, he became the youngest player to score a World Cup goal, putting one past Wales in the quarter-finals.
In the semi-final, Brazil was leading 2-1 against France when Pele scored a second-half hat-trick to put the match beyond doubt.
It seemed he could do no wrong as he stroked two goals past Sweden in the final, as Brazil won 5-2.
Back in Brazil, Pele helped Santos win Sao Paulo’s top league competition in 1958, and he finished the season as the top scorer.
In 1962, there was a famous win against European champions Benfica.
Pele’s hat trick in Lisbon sank the Portuguese side and earned the respect of their goalkeeper Costa Pereira.
“I arrived hoping to stop a great man,” he said. “But I went away convinced I had been undone by someone who was not born on the same planet as the rest of us.”
There was to be disappointment in the 1962 World Cup, however, when an injury in an early game sidelined Pele for the rest of the tournament.
That did not stop a rush of wealthy clubs, including Manchester United and Real Madrid, trying to sign the man who was already touted as the greatest footballer in the world.
Alarmed at the thought of their star going overseas, the Brazilian government declared him a “national treasure” to prevent him from being transferred.
The 1966 World Cup was a huge disappointment for Pele and Brazil. Pele became a target and suffered considerable fouling, particularly in the games against Portugal and Bulgaria.
Brazil failed to progress beyond the first round, and Pele’s injuries from the tackles he had endured meant he could not play at his best.
Back home, Santos was in decline and Pele began to make less of a contribution to his side.
He scored an all-time record of 1,281 goals in 1,363 matches for Santos (1956-74), the Brazilian national team, and the New York Cosmos (1975-77).
But beyond his records, he will be remembered for revolutionizing the sport, his ever-present number 10 on his back.
The first global football star, he played a lead role in the game’s transformation into a sporting and commercial powerhouse, tapping his preternatural athleticism despite his relatively small size — 1.70 meters (just under five-foot-seven).
He also played with heart, visible in the iconic black-and-white footage of the 17-year-old phenom bursting into tears after helping Brazil to its first World Cup title, in 1958.
Eight years earlier, seeing his father cry when Brazil lost the 1950 World Cup final at home to Uruguay, he had promised to bring the trophy home one day.
Pele reached the pinnacle of his greatness at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, the first broadcast in colour, where he starred on what many consider the greatest team of all time, with talents such as Rivellino, Tostao and Jairzinho.
He was often welcomed like royalty when travelling abroad with Santos or the national team. Legend has it that in 1969 his arrival in Nigeria was the occasion for a 48-hour truce in the bloody Biafra war.
Pele declined offers to play in Europe, but signed for a brief, lucrative swan song with the Cosmos at the end of his career, bringing his star power to the land of “soccer.”
His reign extended beyond the pitch, with gigs as a movie star, singer and later sports minister (1995-1998) — one of the first black cabinet members in Brazil.
But he faced criticism at times in Brazil for remaining quiet on social issues and racism, and for what some saw as his haughty, vain personality.
Unlike Argentine rebel Diego Maradona, his rival for the title of greatest of all time, Pele was seen as close to those in power — including Brazil’s 1964-1985 military regime.
Pele’s public appearances had grown increasingly rare, and he frequently used a walker or wheelchair.
He was hospitalized several times for urinary infections, then again in 2021 and 2022 for colon cancer which marked the beginning of the end.
But he met his health problems with trademark humour.
“I will face this match with a smile on my face,” he posted on Instagram in September 2021, after surgery to remove his colon tumour.
He was deeply moved when Maradona, his longtime friend and rival, died of a heart attack in 2020 at age 60.
“The world has lost a legend,” he wrote.
“One day, I hope, we will play soccer together in the sky.”