Pele, the Brazilian footballer who became one of the most iconic sportsmen of all-time, has died at the age of 82.
Family members had gathered at the Albert Einstein Israelita Hospital in Sao Paulo shortly before Christmas after news that his colon cancer had worsened and posted a series of pictures of their bedside vigil over recent days.
Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pelé is the only player in football history to have won the World Cup three times – in 1958, 1962 and 1970 – and a committee of experts voted him as the Fifa ‘Player of the Century’ in 2000.
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Pelé scored a record 77 goals in 92 international matches for Brazil and, while there is some debate among statisticians about his official career number, the Guinness Books of Records puts his tally in a 21-year senior career at 1,279 goals in 1,363 games.
Blessed with pace, vision, wonderful dribbling skills and an outstanding heading ability, Pelé was just 17 in 1958 when he became the youngest player to appear in a World Cup.
He scored six times in the knock-out phase, including a hat-trick in the semi-final against France and then two goals in the final against Sweden, to inspire Brazil’s victory. Pelé was then again part of Brazil’s 1962-winning squad before famously spearheading the team in 1970 that beat Italy 4-1 in the final and is regarded as the greatest in international history.
Pelé had suffered serious ill-health in recent years. He appeared in a wheelchair at the draw for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and, according to his son, became more reclusive following hip surgery. He was hospitalised due to kidney problems and then had surgery last year to remove a tumour on the right side of his colon.
Pelé was again admitted to hospital this year on Nov 29, with doctors announcing in December that his oncological disease had progressed and that he required “further care related to renal and cardiac dysfunctions”.
Following Argentina’s win in the World Cup final, a picture appeared on Pelé’s social media account of the team lifting the trophy, and hailed the performances of Lionel Messi, France’s Kylian Mbappe and surprise semi-finalists Morocco.
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“Today, football continues to tell its story, as always, in an enthralling way,” he said. “What a gift it was to watch this spectacle of the future of our sport.”
During the World Cup in Qatar, the Brazil team unfurled a massive banner on the pitch with a picture of their most legendary player. It simply read: “Pelé!