Edson Arantes do Nascimento, the original "Pele" of football, the guy who popularised the term "the beautiful game," the world's greatest athlete, and a former sports minister of Brazil, died on Thursday night in Sao Paulo, Brazil, after a courageous fight with cancer. He was 82 years old.
Known by many names, including "Gasolina," "The Black Pearl," and "O Rei" (The King), Pele is the most cherished and beloved sports figure the world has ever known.
Pele, 82, died in a Sao Paulo, Brazil, private hospital after fighting advanced cancer-related complications for about a month.
In September 2021, his colon tumour was removed, but neither his family nor the physicians could say whether cancer had spread to other organs. Recently, he was receiving "elevated care" for kidney and heart malfunction.
Pele was named "the greatest" by FIFA, the organisation that governs the sport of football, was named Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee in 1999, was listed among the 100 most significant people of the 20th century by TIME Magazine, and was also one of the two joint winners of the FIFA Player of the Century award in 2000.
However, Pele was the pioneer who popularised football as "the beautiful game" for millions of followers throughout the world.
He was the first No. 10 in football history, which Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbapp currently wear. He was the brilliant player who loved the game and was so unstoppable that the many defenders he faced had no choice but to foul him.
Right-footed Pele, a player with exceptional talent, dominating presence on the field, impeccable positional sense, miraculous dribbling skills, two excellent feet, and a devastatingly potent shot, is now the only footballer to have won the World Cup three times: in 1958, 1962, and 1970.
Pele scored 1,279 goals in 1,363 games, including friendly, during the course of his nearly two-decade career. This holds the title of Guinness World Record. He has the record for being Brazil's youngest scorer ever, and at 17 he was the youngest player to participate in a World Cup final.
Pele's mystique grew even greater after his retirement as he travelled the world as "The King" and was entertained by royalty, leaders of state, and billionaires. He was born Edson Arantes do Nascimento on October 23, 1940, in a small rural community in Minas Gerais, Brazil.
In order to stop him from being brought to Europe to practise his trade there, Brazil's federal government named him a National Treasure in the 1960s. He once managed to end a civil war in Nigeria by persuading the opposing factions to declare a truce in time for Pele to visit the area.
Pele made his professional football debut for Santos, the only team he played for in an official league, at the age of 16 in 1956. Pele was the son of Fluminense footballer Dondinho (real name Joao Ramos do Nascimento), and Celeste Arantes. He made 659 games for Santos between 1956 and 1974, scoring 648 goals.
Pele helped Santos become more well-known internationally by travelling with the squad and bringing sizable audiences. Pele represented the New York Cosmos from 1975 to 1977, giving the American team widespread recognition. In three years, Pele played 56 games with the Cosmos and scored 31 goals.
At the 1958 World Cup, when he was 17 years old, "The King" made his first impression on the international stage by scoring some remarkable goals, including two in the 5-2 victory over Sweden in the championship game that helped Brazil win their first World Cup. He participated in 92 international games and scored 77 goals.
He has received numerous honours and set numerous records in the world of football. He was given an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in 1997. He was, for example, the youngest player to play in the World Cup and win it (at the age of 17 years, 244 days). He was also the youngest player to score a hat-trick in the FIFA World Cup.
Since 1994, he has served as the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. Pele was appointed Extraordinary Minister for Sport by Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso in 1995. Pele used this position to advocate for the Pele Law, which prohibits corruption in Brazilian sports.
Pele had a complex personality and wrote numerous books, including memoirs. He also appeared in films, the most well-known of which being the Hollywood production "Escape to Victory," starring Sylvester Stallone and Michael Caine. Additionally, he appeared in documentaries, television series, and films in Brazil.
But above and beyond all of these accomplishments and facets of his life, Pele always had a special place in the hearts of his millions of admirers all over the world and controlled them like The King he truly was. He was brilliant and non-controversial, lacking the faulty character of someone like Maradona or George Best.
His enterprises were the subject of some controversy, including claims that money from Unicef had been stolen, but nothing of the sort was ever proven. After retiring from sports, Pele took part in a number of charitable endeavours, which only helped to further his renown.
As Pele struggled for his life in a hospital in Sao Paulo, numerous football players, including Kylian Mbappe, France's World Cup star, sent him their best wishes. This is because of his international appeal as a humble, lovable, and well-respected human being.
Despite the King's passing, his memory will go on forever!