Brazil football legend Pele dies at 82

By Xinhua
On 30 December 2022 at 07:21

Pele, the Brazilian footballer whose extraordinary talent and unmatched achievements made him a global icon, died on Thursday at the age of 82.

The Albert Einstein hospital in Sao Paulo confirmed that the man dubbed the King of Football died at 3.27pm local time "due to the failure of multiple organs, a result of the progression of colon cancer associated with his previous clinical condition."

News of Pele’s passing was also confirmed in a message on his official Instagram account.

"Inspiration and love marked the journey of King Pele, who peacefully passed away today," it read. "On his journey, Edson enchanted the world with his genius in sport, stopped a war, carried out social works all over the world and spread what he most believed to be the cure for all our problems: love. His message today becomes a legacy for future generations. Love, love and love, forever."

Pele, whose given name was Edson Arantes do Nascimento, had been hospitalized since late November for treatment of a respiratory infection and other cancer-related complications.

On December 21, his eldest daughter, Kely Cristina Nascimento, announced her father would spend Christmas in hospital because he required "more extensive care".

Widely considered the greatest footballer of all time, Pele is the only player to win the World Cup three times, having lifted the sport’s most prestigious trophy in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

His celebrated career included 732 goals in 792 games for club and country. His Brazil record of 77 international goals was equalled by Neymar in the South American team’s World Cup quarterfinal defeat to Croatia in early December.

In 2000, world football governing body FIFA declared Pele and Argentina’s Diego Maradona as joint winners of its award for the greatest player of the 20th century. He was also recognized by Time magazine as one of the 100 most important people of the last century.

Pele faced a series of health issues over the past decade, including problems related to his spine, hip, knee and kidneys. Last year, the former Santos and New York Cosmos star underwent surgery to remove a tumor from his colon.

Among those to pay tribute on Thursday afternoon was France forward Kylian Mbappe.

"The king of football has left us but his legacy will never be forgotten," he wrote on Twitter. "RIP KING."

The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) described Pele as "the greatest idol of world football" and said the entity would observe seven days of official mourning.

"The idol’s death is the saddest news reported by the CBF since its founding 108 years ago," it said in a statement.

CBF President Ednaldo Rodrigues added: "I am deeply saddened by Pele’s departure. The CBF will pay all possible tributes to the greatest athlete of all time. Pele is eternal and we will always work to preserve his history and perpetuate his legacy."

Neymar, currently Brazil’s best player and the team’s No. 10, dedicated a heartfelt message on social media alongside a photo of Pele wearing a crown.

"He turned football into art, into entertainment," the forward wrote. "He gave a voice to the poor, to black people and, above all, he gave visibility to Brazil. Football and Brazil have raised their ’status’ thanks to the King!.

"Before Pele, ’10’ was just a number. I read that phrase somewhere, at some point in my life. But that beautiful sentence is incomplete. I would say that before Pele, football was just a sport. Pele changed everything."

Neymar’s Paris Saint-Germain teammate, Lionel Messi, also took to social media with a brief message alongside a series of images, including a photo in which he is embracing the Brazilian great.

"Rest in peace, Pele," Messi wrote.

People stand near the Israelita Albert Einstein Hospital where former Brazilian football star Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pele, died in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Dec. 29, 2022. Pele, three-time World Cup champion, died on Thursday at the age of 82 in the hospital, victim of colon cancer, his doctors officially reported. (Xinhua/Rahel Patrasso)