Brazilian football icon Pele, widely regarded as the greatest player of all time and a three-time World Cup winner who masterminded the “beautiful game,” has died at the age of 82, his family said Thursday.
“Everything we are is thanks to you. We love you infinitely. Rest in peace,” daughter Kely Nascimento wrote on Instagram.
Born as Edson Arantes do Nascimento, he became better known as ‘Pele’ and is widely considered the best player to have ever graced a football pitch. He, remarkably, scored 77 goals in just 92 international appearances for Brazil and was part of world-renowned teams that won three World Cups between 1958 and 1970.
Pele’s 21-year domestic career saw him represent just two clubs. Debuting in 1956 for boyhood team Santos, he made 636 appearances for the club prior to spending two years with New York Cosmos of the now-abolished North American Soccer League. Upon retirement in 1976, he had scored 655 club goals in 700 games.
Among several accolades, Pele was voted World Player of the Century in 2000 and named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century. He received the first-ever FIFA Ballon d’Or Prix d’Honneur in 2014, whilst analysis showed he would have won the Ballon d’Or a record seven times if it had existed during his career.
It was announced in 2021 that Pele had undergone surgery to remove a tumour on the right side of his colon and later began chemotherapy in September of that year. During recent weeks, however, his condition appeared to have worsened after a comment was made explaining his “tumour had advanced.”
Brazil players paid tribute to Pele after their last-16 win over South Korea during the 2022 World Cup, holding up a banner with his name and picture.
His daughter, Kely Nascimento, wrote on December 21: “Our Christmas at home has been suspended. We decided with the doctors that, for various reasons, it would be better for us to stay here with all the care that this new family at Einstein gives us.”