Pele, the Brazilian king of soccer who won a record three World Cups and became one of the most influential sports figures of the last century, passed away on Thursday after a long battle with cancer. He was 82.
Since 2021, the champion of “the beautiful game” had been treated for colon cancer. He had been hospitalized for a number of ailments for the past month.
Pelé spent nearly two decades as the game’s most prolific scorer with Brazilian club Santos and the Brazil national team. He is widely considered to be one of the best players in soccer.
Along with Pelé, only Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and the late Diego Maradona are mentioned in discussions about soccer’s greatest players.
Various sources, counting various arrangements of games, list Pelé’s objective sums anyplace between 650 (association matches) and 1,281 (all senior matches, some against low-level rivalry.)
At the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, the player who would come to be known as “The King” was only 17 years old when he was first shown to the world. After scoring two goals in Brazil’s 5-2 final victory over the host nation, he was carried off the field by his teammates.
The image of Pelé wearing a vibrant yellow Brazil jersey and carrying the number The 10 with the number 10 on the back is still popular with soccer fans everywhere. Likewise, his signature goal celebration, in which he leaps with his right fist raised high above his head, occurs.
Because of Pelé’s fame, Nigerian factions in a civil war agreed to a brief cease-fire in 1967 so he could play an exhibition match there. In 1997, British Queen Elizabeth II bestowed the knighthood upon him. When he went to Washington to help spread the word about the game in North America, the president of the United States was the first to shake his hand.
The host informed his guest, “My name is Ronald Reagan, and I am the president of the United States of America.” Be that as it may, you don’t have to present yourself since everybody knows who Pelé is.”
In a nation where the wealthy and powerful typically come from the white minority, Pelé, Brazil’s first modern Black national hero, rarely discussed racism.
There were many facets to Pelé’s life after soccer. He served as an ambassador for UNESCO and the United Nations, was a wealthy businessman, and served as Brazil’s Extraordinary Minister for Sport.
His appearance and travels decreased as his health deteriorated. During his final years, he was frequently seen in a wheelchair, and he did not attend a ceremony to unveil a statue of him representing Brazil’s World Cup team from 1970. In a beach house, Pelé spent his 80th birthday alone with a few family members.
He scored against grown men with the same ease he scored against friends back home, despite his youth and 5-foot-8 frame. In 1956, when he was 16 years old, he made his professional debut with the Brazilian team, and the team quickly gained international recognition.
He was a reserve for the 1958 World Cup, but he ended up playing a big role on the winning team for his country. His first goal, in which he volleyed the ball home after flicking the ball over a defender’s head and racing around him, was voted one of the best in World Cup history.
The 1966 World Cup in England— won by the hosts — was an unpleasant one for Pelé, by than previously thought to be the world’s top player. After Brazil was eliminated in the group stage, Pelé declared that the World Cup would be his last.
During the 1970 World Cup, he changed his mind and got a new lease on life. He scored with a header against England, but the great goalkeeper Gordon Banks made an astonishing move by flipping the ball over the bar.
One of the greatest saves in World Cup history, Pelé compared it to a “salmon climbing up a waterfall.” Later, in his final World Cup match, against Italy, he scored the opening goal.
Pelé scored a record 95 goals in 114 Brazil games, 77 of which came in official matches.
He spent three decades with Santos before entering semi-retirement following the 1972 season. The wealthy clubs in Europe attempted to sign him, but the Brazilian government intervened and declared him a national treasure to prevent his sale.
A gifted Brazilian national team was driven on the field by Pelé’s energy, vision, and imagination with a fast, fluid style of play that exemplified “O Jogo Bonito,” which means “The Beautiful Game” in Portuguese. His 1977 collection of memoirs, “My Life and the Lovely Game,” made the expression part of soccer’s dictionary.
He joined the North American Soccer League’s New York Cosmos in 1975. Pelé elevated soccer’s profile in North America, despite being 34 years old and past his prime. He scored 64 goals in three seasons and led the Cosmos to the league championship in 1977.
On October 1, 1977, Pelé ended his career in an exhibition match between the Cosmos and Santos in front of approximately 77,000 people in New Jersey. He played with each club for half of the game.
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