Pele dead at 82: tributes flow after news Brazil’s ‘king of football’ has lost battle to cancer

Brazilian soccer legend Pele has sadly lost his 15-month battle with cancer.

His daughter announced on Instagram that her father, born Edson Arantes do Nascimento but known worldwide as Pele, passed away in a Sao Paulo hospital

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Mark Beretta pays tribute to Pele.

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“We love you infinitely, rest in peace,” shared Kelly Nascimento. Her comment was alongside a photo of family members’ hands holding Pele’s hand in a hospital bed.

His agent Joe Fraga confirmed his death.

Pele, 82, was hospitalized on November 29 due to a respiratory infection and a “chemotherapy re-evaluation” for his colon cancer, which was diagnosed in September 2021.

But updates from the hospital earlier this week said Pelé’s health had deteriorated and the cancer had progressed.

At the end of Boxing Day (AEDT) it was assumed that Pele would not have long to live and later reports surfaced that the world soccer champion had died.

Brazilian fans held up banners for Pele as the legend’s health deteriorated during the World Cup in Qatar. Credit: Getty Images

Football fans had been ridiculing Pele for every health update since his condition began to deteriorate during the last World Cup in Qatar.

In amazing scenes, fans took giant banners of their hero as eye-catching tributes to Brazil games.

Brazilian fans hold up a banner for Pele during the recent World Cup in Qatar. Credit: PA Images via Getty Images

His family recently took to Instagram to post touching tributes and pictures of their father as they spent Christmas by his side during his final days at the Albert Einstein Jewish Hospital in Sao Paulo.

Before his death, daughter Kely Nascimento posted a picture of the football immortal and wrote: “The essence of Christmas. We thank you all for all the love and light you are sending.

“We continue to be here, in the struggle and in the faith. One more night together,” she wrote on Friday.

Pele with his daughter in the hospital. Credit: Instagram

She also shared a photo taken with her brother, Brazilian footballer and coach Edinho, who arrived at the hospital on Christmas Eve. Posting on his own Instagram account, Edinho held his father’s hand and wrote, “Father… my strength is yours.”

Nascimento announced earlier in the week that the family would spend Christmas at Pele’s side in the hospital.

She previously thanked the well-wishers for their tributes and messages of support.

“Our Christmas at home has been suspended,” Nascimento wrote on Wednesday.

“We decided with the doctors that for a variety of reasons it would be better for us to stay[in the hospital]with all the care that this new family…Einstein is giving us,” she added.

After Pele was hospitalized in November, Nascimento explained that the former soccer player is also battling COVID, despite having been vaccinated “at all doses” and the chemotherapy made him more vulnerable.

Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, he was widely regarded as one of the greatest football players in history.

Fans regularly called him “King of Soccer” or “King of Soccer” or simply “King Pele”. He is also in contention for the ‘greatest of all time’ along with Argentina’s Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi.

Pele’s magical career

Widely considered one of football’s greatest players, Pelé spent nearly two decades enchanting fans and impressing opponents as the game’s top scorer with Brazilian club Santos and the Brazil national team.

He competed in four World Cups, winning three – 1958, 1962, 1970 – and scoring 12 goals in 14 games.

He scored 1,281 goals in 1,363 games during his professional career.

His grace, athleticism and mesmerizing moves enchanted players and fans alike. He orchestrated a fast, flowing style that revolutionized the sport—a samba-like flair that embodied his country’s elegance on the field.

He led Brazil to the height of football and became the world’s ambassador for his sport on a journey that began on the streets of Sao Paulo state, where he kicked a sock stuffed with newspapers or rags.

When talking about football’s greatest players, apart from Pele, only the late Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are mentioned.

Various sources counting different series of games list Pele’s total goals anywhere between 650 (league games) and 1281 (all senior games, some against low-level competition).

The player who would be dubbed ‘The King’ was introduced to the world at the age of 17 at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, becoming the youngest ever player at that tournament. He was carried off the field on the shoulders of his team-mates after scoring twice in Brazil’s 5-2 win over the host nation in the final.

Injuries limited him to just two games as Brazil retained the 1962 World Cup title, but Pele was the landmark of his country’s World Cup triumph in Mexico 1970. He scored in the final and set up Carlos Alberto with a smooth pass to score the last goal in a 4-1 win over Italy.

Football king Pele celebrates Brazil’s victory over Italy at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. Credit: Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

The image of Pele in a bright yellow Brazil jersey with the number 10 stamped on the back stays alive with football fans everywhere. As does his trademark goal celebration – a right-fist leap high above his head.

Such was Pele’s fame that in 1967 factions of a civil war in Nigeria agreed on a brief truce so he could play an exhibition match in the country. He was knighted by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in 1997. When he visited Washington to help popularize the game in North America, it was the US President who first reached out.

“My name is Ronald Reagan, I am the President of the United States of America,” the host said to his visitor. “But you don’t have to introduce yourself because everyone knows who Pele is.”

Pele was Brazil’s first modern black national hero, but he rarely spoke about racism in a country where the rich and powerful tend to come from a white minority.

Opposing fans taunted Pele with monkey chants at home and around the world.

“He said that he would never play if he had to stop every time he heard those chants,” said Angelica Bastihi, one of Pele’s biographers. “He’s the key to black pride in Brazil, but he never wanted to be a flag-bearer.”

Pele’s life after football took many forms. He was a politician, Brazil’s extraordinary sports minister, a wealthy businessman and ambassador to UNESCO and the United Nations.

Pelé with the Brazil 1966 World Cup squad at Manchester Airport. Credit: PA images/PA Images via Getty Images

He had roles in films, soap operas, and even composed songs and recorded CDs of popular Brazilian music.

As his health deteriorated, his travels and appearances became less frequent. In his final years he was often seen in a wheelchair and did not attend a ceremony unveiling a statue of him representing the 1970 Brazil World Cup team. Pele spent his 80th birthday in isolation with a few family members at a beach house.

Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento on October 23, 1940 in the small town of Tres Coracoes in the interior of Minas Gerais state, Pele grew up wearing shiny shoes to buy his modest football gear.

Pele’s talent attracted attention when he was 11 and a local pro player took him to the Santos youth teams. It didn’t take long for him to make the senior team.

Despite his youth and 5ft 8 height, he scored against grown men with the same ease he displayed against friends back home. He made his debut for the Brazilian club in 1956 at the age of 16 and the club quickly gained worldwide recognition.

The name Pele came from mispronouncing the name of a player named Bilé.

He competed as a reserve player at the 1958 World Cup but became a key player for his country’s championship team. His first goal, in which he flicked the ball over a defender’s head and sped around to volley it home, was voted one of the best in World Cup history.

The 1966 World Cup in England – won by the hosts – was a bitter one for Pelé, who was already considered the world’s best at the time. Brazil were eliminated in the group stage and Pele, furious at the rough treatment, swore it was his last World Cup.

He changed his mind and was rejuvenated at the 1970 World Cup. In a game against England he scored a header for a designated goal but the great goalkeeper Gordon Banks flicked the ball over the bar in an amazing move. Pele compared the rescue – one of the best in World Cup history – to a “salmon climbing a waterfall”. He later scored the opening goal in the final against Italy, his last World Cup game.

In total, Pelé played 114 games for Brazil, scoring a record 95 goals, 77 of them in official matches.

His run at Santos spanned three decades until his semi-retirement after the 1972 season. Wealthy European clubs tried to sign him, but the Brazilian government intervened to prevent his sale and declared him a national treasure.

On the pitch, Pele’s energy, vision and imagination fueled a gifted Brazil national team with a fast, fluid style of play that exemplifies ‘O Jogo Bonito’ – Portuguese for ‘The Beautiful Game’. His autobiography “My life and the beautiful game” from 1977 made the sentence part of the football lexicon.

In 1975 he joined the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League. Despite being 34 and past his prime, Pele elevated football to a higher status in North America. He led the Cosmos to the league title in 1977, scoring 64 goals in three seasons.

Pele ended his career on October 1, 1977 in a show between Cosmos and Santos in front of about 77,000 spectators in New Jersey. He played half the game with each club. Among the dignitaries in attendance was perhaps the only other athlete whose fame spanned the globe – Muhammad Ali.

Pele would go through difficult times in his personal life, especially when his son Edinho was arrested on drug charges. Pele had two illegitimate daughters and five children from his first two marriages to Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi and Assiria Seixas Lemos. He later married businesswoman Marcia Cibele Aoki.

With CNN and AP

Controversy over Messi goal that shouldn’t have been allowed.

Controversy over Messi goal that shouldn’t have been allowed. Pele dead at 82: tributes flow after news Brazil’s ‘king of football’ has lost battle to cancer

James Brien

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