End of an Era: Brazilian Soccer Star Pelé Dies at Age 82
Brazilian soccer legend Pelé has passed away at age 82.
The star, who won three FIFA World Cups, becoming soccer's first global icon in the representation of the South American country, died from complications of colon cancer after he was admitted to a hospital in São Paolo in late November 2022 for a respiratory infection.
A message on Instagram confirmed the passing of the late player, nodding the legacy Pelé behind.
Photo credit should read GABRIEL LOPES/AFP via Getty Images Péle holding the FIFA World Cup.
"Inspiration and love marked the journey of King Pelé, who peacefully passed away today. On his journey, Edson enchanted the world with his genius in sport, stopped a war, carried out social works all over the world and spread what he most believed to be the cure for all our problems: love," they wrote. "His message today becomes a legacy for future generations."
Born Edson Arantes do Nascimiento on October 23, 1940, in Três Corações, Brazil, Pelé had humble beginnings as he grew up in soccer, playing the game as a child with rolled-up socks stuffed with rags.
As a teenager, he joined a youth squad where he was coached by Waldemar de Brito, who convinced his family to let the budding star try out for the Santos professional soccer club at age 15, Biography.com states.
In 1958, he played at his first World Cup in Sweden at 17. He scored three goals in a 5-2 semifinal win against France and won 5-2 against Sweden at the finals. Despite numerous offers from European soccer teams, Brazilian President Jânino Quadros declared him a national treasure, which kept him mainly in Brazil.
Despite the lack of international exposure, his legend grew fiercely, with the Nigerian Civil War reportedly being brought to a 48-hour halt in the late 1960s to watch him play at an exhibition game in Lagos.
He officially retired from playing soccer in October 1977 but continued his work as an athletic ambassador. In 1978 he was honored with the International Peace Award for his work with UNICEF, represented Brazil as Extraordinary Minister for Sport, served as a United Nations ambassador for ecology and the environment was named FIFA's "Co-Player of the Year" in 1999 with Diego Maradona, among other accolades.
"Everything that we are, is thanks to you," daughter Kely Nascimento wrote on Instagram. "We love you infinitely. Rest in peace."
Pelé had seven children, Kely, Flávia, Sandra, Edson, Jennifer, Joshua and Celeste with his first two wives and two women outside his marriage.
He also served as a mentor to many of today's soccer stars, including Kylian Mbappé, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar Jr. After Argentina's win at the World Cup 2022 in Qatar, he shared a heartfelt message honoring both teams.
"Today, soccer continues to tell its story, as always, in an enthralling way. Messi winning his first World Cup, as his trajectory deserved. My dear friend, Mbappé, scoring four goals in a final. What a gift it was to watch this spectacle to the future of our sport," he wrote on Instagram. "And I couldn't fail to congratulate Morocco for the incredible campaign. It's great to see Africa shine. Congratulations Argentina! Certainly, Diego is smiling now."
After his death, Neymar Jr. shared a message honoring Pelé and their time together.
"Before Pelé, '10' was just a number. I read that phrase somewhere, at some point in my life. But that beautiful phrase is incomplete. I would say that before Pelé, soccer was just a sport. Pelé changed everything, he transformed soccer into art, in entertainment," he wrote. "He gave voice to the poor, the blacks and primarily to Brazil. Soccer in Brazil rose its status thanks to the king! He is gone, but his magic remains. Pelé is ETERNAL!!"