Brazilian soccer legend Pelé, a three-time World Cup champion and widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, has died. He was 82 years old.
His daughter, Kely, confirmed his death on social media.
“All we are is thanks to you,” she wrote. “We love you forever. Rest in peace.”
Brazil has planned 48 hours of national mourning. Pelé, whose full name was Edson Arantes do Nascimento, is expected to be buried in Santos, southeast of Sao Paulo, where he played for the city club from 1956 to 1974.
The club said in a statement that the public will be able to pay their last respects to him at the Vila Belmiro stadium, according to the Associated Press.
Santos said the coffin bearing the star will leave Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo early Monday morning and be placed in the center circle of the field. Visits will begin at 10 a.m. Monday and end the following morning, the AP reported. A private funeral will follow with his family present.
Pele had been in and out of hospital over the past year as he battled colon cancer. In November, Albert Einstein Hospital announced that his cancer had progressed and he was in palliative care.
The hospital confirmed that Pelé died at 3:27 p.m. local time from multiple organ failure following colon cancer.
The soccer star was hospitalized in December 2021 shortly after undergoing chemotherapy to treat a reported colon tumor. He had posted on Instagram that he was recovering.
Over the past year, Pelé had dismissed fears about his health and continued to thank fans for their support.
“Dear friends, it’s been a while since we talked about this. I want to let you know that I’m fine. I feel better every day. I don’t think even the mask for my protection can hide my happiness. Thank you so much to all of you who send me good energy daily,” he wrote in a November 2021 post on Instagram.
Named FIFA co-player of the century in 1999 with Argentina’s Diego Maradona, Pelé spent his retirement as a global sports ambassador and dedicated himself to other humanitarian causes. In 2020, upon Maradona’s death, Pelé said, “One day I hope we can play football together in heaven.”
Pelé was born on October 23, 1940 in the city of Tres Coracoes, in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. His parents named him after American inventor Thomas Edison. Pelé’s father, João Ramos do Nascimento, nicknamed Dondinho, was also a professional footballer.
Young Edson was given the nickname Pelé at school when classmates made fun of his pronunciation of popular Brazilian goalkeeper Bilé, he explained in a 2016 column for The Players’ Tribune.
He started playing at 13 with a youth team in Bauru. He was scouted by Santos at 15 and started playing professionally with the team.
At just 17, he became a superstar with his performance in Brazil’s 1958 World Cup victory, and he played his entire career in Brazil with Santos. He scored 618 goals in 636 games for Santos and won six Brazilian league titles.
Pelé won two more World Cup titles – in 1962 and 1970. He is the only player to win three World Cups and one of only two players – alongside team-mate Vava – to score in two World Cup finals for winning teams.
He scored 77 goals in 92 international matches. Brazilian striker Neymar equaled his national record at the 2022 World Cup, just weeks before Pelé’s death, by scoring his 77th goal in a game against Croatia.
“I would say that before Pelé, football was just a sport. Pelé changed everything,” Neymar wrote on social media. “He turned football into art, into entertainment. He gave voice to the poor, to black people and above all gave visibility to Brazil… He is gone, but his magic remains.”
He ended his storied career with the New York Cosmos in 1977, generating unparalleled buzz for football in the United States. The club, funded by pioneering television director Steven Ross, brought in stars like Pele, Italian striker Giorgio Chinaglia and German defender Franz Beckenbauer. Cosmos were the only club besides Santos for which Pelé ever played.
His final game on October 1, 1977, an exhibition game between the Cosmos and Santos, was played to a sold-out crowd at Giants Stadium. The match was televised on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports”. Pelé played one half for each team.
“Pelé’s name will forever be synonymous with sporting artistry and genius,” Cosmos said in a statement. “His lasting impact on the sport of football is invaluable. Rest in peace, O Rei.”
He then starred in John Huston’s 1981 World War II sports film “Escape to Victory” alongside Sylvester Stallone and Michael Caine.
A biopic about his life, “Pelé: Birth of a Legend”, was released in 2016.
“A simple ‘goodbye’ to the eternal King Pelé will never be enough to express the pain that the entire world of football is currently embracing,” wrote Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, the only man to have scored in more World Cups than Pele. “An inspiration to so many millions, a reference yesterday, today and forever. The love you always showed me was reciprocated in every moment we shared, even from a distance. It will never be forgotten and his memory will live forever in all of us football lovers.”
Pelé is widely credited with sparking interest in the game in the United States in the 1970s, a legacy that lives on today.
“Pelé had a magnetic presence and when you were with him the rest of the world stopped. His life is not just about football. He changed perceptions for the better in Brazil, South America and the world. world,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in a statement on Thursday.
He is survived by his wife Marcia Aoki, as well as seven children: Brazilian soccer coach and former player Edson Cholbi do Nascimento, better known as Edinho; his daughter Sandra Regina Machado Arantes do Nascimento; footballer Joshua Nascimento; son Celeste Arantes do Nascimento; and three other daughters, Kely Cristina Nascimento, Flávia Christina Kurtz Nascimento and Jennifer Nascimento.