Brazilian soccer legend, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known as Pele
The three-time World Cup winner who masterminded the “beautiful game” died on Thursday after a protracted battle against colon cancer.
Pele had been battling with the disease as well as kidney and heart problems.
He was hospitalised on November 29. He had been regularly receiving hospital care since September 2021, when a tumor was removed from his colon.
His daughter, Kely Nascimento, confirmed his death in a post on Instagram, sharing a picture of the family holding the hands of the late soccer-giant.
“We love you endlessly. Rest in peace,” she wrote.
In a post on Pele’s official Instagram account, a statement read that Pele “enchanted the world with his genius in sport” and helped to spread a message of love.
“His message today becomes a legacy for future generations. Love, love and love, forever,” the post reads.
Brazilian football icon
Born on October 23, 1940, in the southeastern city of Tres Coracoes, Edson Arantes do Nascimento — Pele’s real name — grew up selling peanuts on the street to help his impoverished family get by.
His parents named him after famous American inventor, Thomas Edison.
But he was soon given the nickname, Pele, for his mispronunciation of Bile, the name of a goalkeeper at Vasco de Sao Lourenco, where his footballer father once played.
Pele dazzled from the age of 15, when he started playing professionally with Santos. He led the club to a flurry of titles, including back-to-back Intercontinental Cups, against Benfica in 1962 and AC Milan in 1963.
He scored an all-time record 1,281 goals in 1,363 matches for Santos (1956-74), the Brazilian national team, and the New York Cosmos (1975-77).
The first global football star, he played a lead role in the game’s transformation into a sporting and commercial powerhouse, tapping his preternatural athleticism despite his relatively small size — 1.70 meters (just under five-foot-seven).
He also played with heart, visible in the iconic black-and-white footage of the 17-year-old phenom bursting into tears after helping Brazil to its first World Cup title in 1958.
Eight years earlier, seeing his father cry when Brazil lost the 1950 World Cup final at home to Uruguay, he had promised to bring the trophy home one day.
Pele reached the pinnacle of his greatness at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, the first broadcast in color, where he starred on what many consider the greatest team of all time, with talents such as Rivellino, Tostao and Jairzinho.
He was often welcomed like royalty when traveling abroad with Santos or the national team. Legend has it in 1969 his arrival in Nigeria was the occasion for a 48-hour truce in the bloody Biafra war.
Pele declined offers to play in Europe, but signed for a brief, lucrative swan song with the Cosmos at the end of his career, bringing his star power to the land of “soccer.”
Pele’s public appearances had grown increasingly rare, and he frequently used a walker or wheelchair.
He was hospitalised several times for urinary infections, then again in 2021 and 2022 for the colon cancer that marked the beginning of the end.
But he faced his health problems with trademark humor.
“I will face this match with a smile on my face,” he posted on Instagram in September 2021, after surgery to remove his colon tumor.
He was deeply moved when Maradona, his longtime friend and rival, died of a heart attack in 2020 at age 60.At the age of 62, Brazil’s left-wing President, Lula, appointed Pele to the post of sports minister.
Writing by Abdullahi Lamino; Editing by Tony Okerafor