Global football icon–often credited as the best legs to ever play the round leather game and Brazil World Cup legend, Pele has passed away at the age of 82.
Born as Edson Arantes do Nascimento, the all-time great has had several battles with illness over recent years and had surgery to remove a tumour from his colon in September 2021.
In November, he was admitted to Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital in Sao Paulo due to “general swelling” before it was revealed in December that his cancer had progressed and needed “greater care related to renal and cardiac dysfunctions”.
Pele’s passing was confirmed to News Agency by his agent on Thursday’s evening.
The striker goes down as one of the greatest to ever play the game, having won three World Cups in 1958, 1962 and 1970. He is Brazil’s all-time leading scorer with 77 goals in 92 caps.
During his club career, he played near to 700 games for Santos over 18 years between 1956 and 1974, scoring more than 650 goals. He left the club for New York Cosmos after lifting 25 pieces of domestic silverware.
Including friendlies, Pele netted 1,279 goals in 1,363 matches in all, which is recognised as a Guinness World Record. After two years in the USA, he hung his boots up for good in 1976.
In 1999 he was named as the athlete of the century by the International Olympic Committee and player of the 1900s by FIFA alongside the late Diego Maradona. He won countless other individual awards during his lifetime, one of which was the 2005 BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Award.
After Brazil’s 2022 World Cup last-16 win over South Korea on December 5, players unfurled a banner in tribute to the country’s hero amid his depreciating condition.
Pele’s 21-year domestic career saw him represent just two clubs. Debuting in 1956 for boyhood team Santos, he made 636 appearances for the club prior to spending two years with New York Cosmos of the now-abolished North American Soccer League. Upon retirement in 1976, he had scored 655 club goals in 700 games.
Among several accolades, Pele was voted World Player of the Century in 2000 and named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century. He received the first-ever FIFA Ballon d’Or Prix d’Honneur in 2014, whilst analysis showed he would have won the Ballon d’Or a record seven times if it had existed during his career.
It was announced in 2021 that Pele had undergone surgery to remove a tumour on the right side of his colon and later began chemotherapy in September of that year. During recent weeks, however, his condition appeared to have worsened after a comment was made explaining his “tumour had advanced.”
Brazil players paid tribute to Pele after their last-16 win over South Korea during the 2022 World Cup, holding up a banner with his name and picture.
His daughter, Kely Nascimento, wrote on December 21: “Our Christmas at home has been suspended. We decided with the doctors that, for various reasons, it would be better for us to stay here with all the care that this new family at Einstein gives us.”
Pele is survived by his six children on one of the saddest days football has ever experienced but, undoubtedly, leaves behind a legacy that will never surrender to time.