The Brazilian soccer legend, Pele—arguably the greatest player in the history of soccer—passed away at the age of eighty-two.
During his twenty-one-year professional career, he scored a record 1,281 goals, including seventy-seven in ninety-two international matches for Brazil.
FIFA honored Pele as its Player of the Century in 2000 for becoming the only player to win the World Cup three times, doing so in 1958, 1962, and 1970.
In recent years, he had been dealing with issues related to his kidneys and prostate. In September 2021, after regular testing revealed that Pele had a tumor in his colon, he underwent surgery to have it removed at the Albert Einstein Hospital in São Paulo. At the end of November 2022, he was readmitted to the hospital.
Kelly Nascimento, his daughter, has been posting updates on her father’s condition on social media from the hospital, keeping his followers in the loop.
On Thursday, she shared a photo to Instagram showing what appeared to be Pele’s family members placing their hands on his hospital bed and telling him: “Everything we are is thanks to you. We love you infinitely. Rest in peace.”
Devastated to hear Pelé has died aged 82. The only man to have won the World Cup three times and one of the greatest footballers of all time. A true icon.
His daugher, Kely Nascimento, writes: "Everything we are is thanks to you. We love you infinitely."
Rest in peace Pelé.🙏🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/LUqaOxlECC
— Ben Jacobs (@JacobsBen) December 29, 2022
How did Pele become so famous?
At the tender age of sixteen, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele, made his debut for the Brazilian national soccer team in 1957.
In the 1958 World Cup semifinal against France, he scored a hat trick and also scored twice in the final against Sweden. Brazilian President Jânio Quadros had Pele labeled a national treasure, making it legally difficult for the young sensation to play for a team in another country, despite receiving lucrative offers to do so from European clubs.
The ownership of Santos club assured that their star player was compensated properly by organizing costly exhibition matches against clubs from all around the world.
More World Cup titles
Two games into the 1962 World Cup in Chile, Pele exacerbated a groin injury and missed the rest of the tournament. Brazil won its second consecutive title without him.
He was sidelined again with leg injuries four years later in England due to a series of violent assaults by rival defenders, and Brazil was eliminated from the World Cup in the first round.
Pele’s reputation grew even after his international defeat. In the late 1960s, Pele played an exhibition game in Lagos, Nigeria, and the two opposing sides in the Nigerian Civil War reportedly called a ceasefire to watch.
Pele led Brazil back to victory at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. The team beat Italy 4-1 in the final due in large part to Pele, who led the team with four goals.
Although Pele stated that he would no longer play soccer, he was tempted out of retirement the following year to play for the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League (NASL). This helped boost the league’s popularity for a while.
In an October 1977 exhibition match between New York and Santos, Pele’s career came to an end after 1,281 goals in 1,363 games.