Pelé, the Brazilian soccer legend who set a record by winning three World Cups, passed away on Thursday. Pelé was one of the most influential athletes of the 20th century. He was 82.
The representative of “the beautiful game” had been receiving colon cancer therapy since 2021. According to the hospital where he had spent the previous month receiving treatment for the cancer, he passed away from multiple organ failure.
His casket was to be carried through the streets of Santos, the coastal city where his illustrious career began, before burial. The funeral was scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
Players and spectators were mesmerized by his grace, athleticism, and captivating maneuvers. He orchestrated a quick, flowing style that transformed the game, personifying his nation’s grace on the field with a samba-like flair.
Pelé spent nearly two decades thrilling supporters and stunning rivals as the sport’s leading scorer for Brazilian club Santos and the Brazil national team.
There are various sources that show Pelé’s goal totals as ranging from 650 (league games) to 1,281 (including other sets of games) (all senior matches, some against low-level competition.)
In a career that started on the streets of Sao Paulo state, where he would kick a sock filled with newspapers or rags, he led Brazil to the pinnacles of soccer and developed into a global ambassador for his sport.
Only the late Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo are listed with Pelé when discussing the greatest soccer players.
At the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, the man who would come to be known as “The King” made his debut as the youngest player ever. He was only 17 years old. After contributing two goals to Brazil’s 5-2 triumph against the host nation in the championship game, he was carried off the field on the shoulders of his teammates.
When Brazil defended its world championship in 1962, he was only able to play in two games due to injury, but Pelé was the face of his nation’s World Cup victory in Mexico in 1970. He assisted Carlos Alberto with a carefree ball for the final goal in a 4-1 triumph over Italy. He also scored in the championship.
For soccer fans everywhere, the picture of Pelé wearing a vivid yellow Brazil jersey with the No. 10 imprinted on the back will always be memorable. As well as his trademark goal celebration, a leap with a raised right fist.
Due to Pelé’s fame, Nigerian civil war groups agreed to a brief cease-fire in 1967 so that he could play an exhibition match there. In 1997, the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, knighted him. The U.S. president extended his hand first when he went to Washington to promote the game in North America.
For Pelé, who was already regarded as the best player in the world at the time, the 1966 World Cup in England—which the hosts ultimately won—was heartbreaking. Brazil was eliminated at the group stage, and Pelé vowed it would be his final World Cup due to the terrible treatment he had received.
He had a change of heart and was revitalized during the 1970 World Cup. He attempted to score with a header against England, but the legendary goalkeeper Gordon Banks miraculously flipped the ball over the crossbar. One of the greatest saves in World Cup history, according to Pelé, was like a “salmon climbing up a waterfall.” Later, in his final World Cup game against Italy, he scored the game’s first goal.
Pelé played for Brazil in 114 games overall, scoring a record 95 goals, including 77 in competitive matches.
His tenure with Santos lasted for three decades before he entered semi-retirement following the 1972 campaign. Rich European clubs attempted to sign him, but the Brazilian government intervened and declared him a national treasure in order to stop the sale.
On the field, Pelé’s enthusiasm, insight, and creativity inspired the talented Brazilian national team to play in a quick, fluid manner that epitomized “O Jogo Bonito,” or “The Beautiful Game,” as it is known in Portuguese. In 1977, he published his autobiography, “My Life and the Beautiful Game,” which popularized the expression.
In his personal life, Pelé would endure challenges, particularly after Edinho, his son, was detained on drug-related charges. Five children were born to his first two marriages to Assiria Seixas Lemos and Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi, and two girls were born out of wedlock. Marcia Cibele Aoki, a businesswoman, was his future wife.
He began playing with the North American Soccer League’s New York Cosmos in 1975. Even though he was 34 and past his prime, Pelé raised the profile of soccer in North America. In three seasons, he scored 64 goals while helping the Cosmos win the league championship in 1977.
In front of an audience of over 77,000 people in New Jersey, Pelé finished his career on October 1, 1977, during a match between the Cosmos and Santos. He used each club for half of the game. Muhammad Ali, who is arguably the only other athlete whose fame is known throughout the world, was one of the dignitaries there.