Pelé, Brazil’s mighty king of ‘beautiful game,’ has died.


Pelé, the Brazilian soccer icon and three-time World Cup winner passed away on Thursday at 82.

Pelé had been hospitalized for the past month with multiple health issues, including colon cancer, for which he had been receiving treatment since 2021. Known as one of the greatest soccer players of all time, Pelé thrilled fans with his graceful athleticism and mesmerizing moves during his nearly two decades with the Brazilian club Santos and the Brazil national team. He was widely recognized as the sport’s most prolific scorer, and his fast, fluid style revolutionized the game. Alongside the late Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo, Pelé is considered one of the greatest soccer players.

His goal totals are estimated to be between 650 (league matches) and 1,281 (all senior matches). Pelé made his World Cup debut at 17 in 1958 and helped lead Brazil to victory in the final. He was limited to just two games in the 1962 World Cup but played a key role in Brazil’s triumph in 1970, scoring in the final and setting up Carlos Alberto for the last goal in a 4-1 victory over Italy. Pelé’s fame was so great that factions of a civil war in Nigeria agreed to a brief cease-fire in 1967 so he could play an exhibition match in the country. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1997 and received a warm welcome from U.S. President Ronald Reagan when he visited Washington to promote soccer in North America.

Despite facing racism throughout his career, including monkey chants from opposing fans, Pelé rarely spoke out about the issue in Brazil, where the rich and powerful are largely from the white minority. After retiring from soccer, Pelé became a politician, businessman, and ambassador for UNESCO and the United Nations.

He also appeared in movies and soap operas, and recorded CDs of popular Brazilian music. Pelé’s health declined in his later years, and he often used a wheelchair. He did not attend a ceremony to unveil a statue of him representing Brazil’s 1970 World Cup team and spent his 80th birthday isolated with family at a beach home.


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