No one was bigger than Pelé in the world of soccer. And now, there’s word he’s gone.
SAO PAULO (AP) — Pelé, the Brazilian king of soccer who won a record three World Cups and became one of the most commanding sports figures of the last century, died Thursday. He was 82.
The standard-bearer of “the beautiful game” had undergone treatment for colon cancer since 2021. The medical center where he had been hospitalized for the last month said he died of multiple organ failure as a result of the cancer.
“Pelé changed everything. He transformed football into art, entertainment,” Neymar, a fellow Brazilian soccer player, said on Instagram. “Football and Brazil elevated their standing thanks to the King! He is gone, but his magic will endure. Pelé is eternal!”
It says something about the player that during his stunning career, he won seven Golden Ball awards, (“Balones de Oro” in his native Portugeuse), given to the best player during a championship run.
¿Cuántos Balones de Oro habría ganado Pelé si el premio hubiera estado abierto para jugadores de todo el mundo en su época? France Football reveló que O Rei hubiera terminado su carrera con 7. Lo habría ganado en 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1963, 1964 y 1970. Así de grande fue O REI. pic.twitter.com/JPjHqjyvfv
— Invictos (@InvictosSomos) December 29, 2022
There’s no question that his ability to make goals was dominant. AP’s report continues:
Different sources, counting different sets of games, list Pelé’s goal totals anywhere between 650 (league matches) and 1,281 (all senior matches, some against low-level competition.)
The player who would be dubbed “The King” was introduced to the world at 17 at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, the youngest player ever at the tournament. He was carried off the field on teammates’ shoulders after scoring two goals in Brazil’s 5-2 victory over the host country in the final.
Fox News has more details on how he helped his teams in the World Cup:
Pelé helped Brazil to two more World Cup trophies – at the 1962 World Cup in Chile and 1970 World Cup in Mexico. Brazil crashed out in the first round of the 1966 World Cup in England, having only played three matches.
Fox News also shares a glimpse of the high regard others had for the superstar athlete, as in one anecdote about war, and his meeting with then-President Ronald Reagan:
Throughout the years, the legend of Pelé continued to grow – so much so, that in the late 1960s, the two factions in the Nigerian Civil War reportedly agreed to a 48-hour ceasefire so they could watch Pele play in an exhibition game in Lagos.
Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan summarized Pelé’s stardom when the soccer star visited him at the White House and he said: “My name is Ronald Reagan, I’m the president of the United States of America. But you don’t need to introduce yourself, because everyone knows who Pelé is.”
The report adds that Pelé “is survived by his third wife, Marcia Aoki, six children from various relationships, and several grandchildren.”
The in memoriam from French President Emmanuel Macron on social media reads, “The Game. The King. Forever.”
Le Jeu. Le Roi. L’Éternité.
O Jogo. O Rei. A Eternidade. pic.twitter.com/ZjeaF7zIGx
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) December 29, 2022