PelletThe Brazilian soccer player whose talent and legendary achievements earned him the nickname “The King,” died Thursday at the age of 82, his agent Joe Fraga confirmed. While the cause of death was not announced, the football legend was hospitalized earlier this month for various illnesses, including respiratory infections, after battling colon cancer since 2021.
For the world of sports and popular culture, it’s an almost incalculable loss, because Pelé is a true iconknown for his athletic prowess and beloved for his magnetic personality, both of which made him football’s first modern superstar.
During a career spanning three decades, Pelé won a record three World Cups for his native Brazil, while also scoring 1,279 goals in 1,363 matches — a later Guinness World Record.
When his tenure at home came to an end, he joined the New York Cosmos as the de facto emissary of football in the United States, and in 2000, FIFA honored him as a co-Player. of the century (an honor he shared with Diego of Argentina). Maradona).
With his bright smile and outgoing, contagious personality, he was a popular tout for a wide range of products in the early days of TV, which allowed him to become the ball’s first millionaire. stone.
Pelé is football’s Babe Ruth, a truly transformative presence who has changed the game of sport with skill, grace and unparalleled charisma.
Pelé’s international appeal stems from his life’s have-from-nothing trajectory.
Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento on October 23, 1940 (he was named after Thomas Edison), he developed a love of football from his father João Ramos do Nascimento, a known semi-professional player. with the nickname “Dondinho”.
His father was never able to attend the major tournaments, and when he was severely injured, Pelé took it upon himself to financially support his clan by polishing shoes. However, it wasn’t long before the boy’s gifts could not be ignored.
In 1956, the 15-year-old Pelé was brought to Santos by his mentor (and former soccer star) Waldemar de Brito, where he successfully auditioned and immediately won a place in the club. professional team. He scored his first goal before turning 16, and in his first full season he led the club in goals.
The origin of Pelé’s nickname is still controversial (some say it was a byproduct of his childhood mispronunciation of a favorite local player), and Pelé himself claims to not know the meaning. its true meaning. What is clear, however, is that Pelé’s remarkable versatility on the field, his speed and agility amplified his unparalleled ball handling.
At the age of 16, he was selected to the national team and made his international debut at the 1958 World Cup, a resounding victory. At just 17 years old, he scored 3 goals against France in the semi-final, then scored 2 more goals in the final against the host country Sweden.
Losing to Sweden in the 1950 contest, the victory was significant for Brazil, and made Pelé an instant celebrity, as well as putting the country on the map as a great power. soccer country.
A child prodigy second to none, the young Pelé subsequently received numerous offers to move from Santos to many European clubs. In response to this poaching attempt, Brazilian President Jânio Quadros took the amazing (and wise) step of declaring the athlete an official national treasure, thus making any possibility out. going anywhere becomes legally difficult. However, Pelé never showed any real interest in leaving Brazil, and although he was sidelined for most of the 1962 World Cup due to a thigh injury, Brazil won their second tournament title. successively, further elevating his illustrious status.
Pelé’s goalscoring record is truly astounding—in just a span of four years (1957-1961) he scored a whopping 355 goals—and since live TV has just launched, so great His work was regularly witnessed by his countrymen.
His ascension to the top of the global sports mountain seems not only guaranteed but also unstoppable, which is why the Pelé-led national team is in for a shock in its quest for the title. won the third consecutive championship at the 1966 World Cup.
Unwilling to leave Pelé and his teammates free to operate against them, European clubs adopted a crude defensive strategy against the superstar — a tactic that stunned Pelé, and later That was adopted, in somewhat modified form, by the NBA’s Detroit Pistons in their 1980s quest to slow down another explosive phenomenon: Michael Jordan.
“The embodiment of Brazil’s determination and sense of self-worth, Pelé has become a legendary figure at the border.“
The 1966 World Cup defeat seemed not only the end of Brazil’s beautiful football era, but also an extension of the country’s political turmoil, which began in 1964 with a military coup. the overthrow of the government of President João Goulart.
In an era in which Muhammad Ali sacrificed his world boxing title in America to boldly protest his participation in the Vietnam War, Pelé has remained remarkably quiet about his homeland’s transformation. He turned to brutal authoritarianism—and in fact, he was friendly with autocrats (including, most notably, General Emílio Garrastazu Médici) who sought to exploit his track record to achieve his goals. benefit from endorsing their own autocracy.
Some critics criticized Pelé for his apoliticalism (another trait that made him resemble Michael Jordan), but the footballer defended his actions to the death, stating in the 2021 documentary bio Pellet, “My door is always open. Everyone knows this. And that includes when things get really bad.”
While that wouldn’t reverse Brazil’s political fortunes, Pelé achieved redemption in competition in 1970 when, at the age of 29, he helped an underdog Brazilian team win a championship trophy. other world enemies.
The embodiment of Brazilian determination and sense of self-worth, Pelé thus became a legendary figure at the border, and as his playing days ended with both the national team and Santos. —he retired in 1974—he turned his prominence into a lucrative business at the time. three-year, $2.8 million contract with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League.
At 34, Pelé isn’t what he used to be, but he’s still scored 37 goals and 30 assists throughout his Big Apple career, along with the 1976 MVP award and the 1977 Soccer Bowl title. .
Thriving as the sport’s global ambassador, Pelé hung up his boots after that victorious 1977 campaign. However, he remained in the limelight for decades. He was awarded the International Peace Prize in 1978, and in 1994 he was appointed a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. Brazil made him Special Sports Minister in 1995, and in 1997 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.
He has been married four times — to Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi (1966-1982), Xuxa (1981-1986), Assíria Lemos Seixas (1994-2008) and Marcia Aoiki (2016-2022) —and has seven children.
Even in retirement, Pelé’s legacy lives on as arguably the best-ever practitioner of the “beautiful game”. In 1980, the French sports daily L’Equipe named him Athlete of the Century, as did the International Olympic Committee in 1999. Time The magazine included him in its list of the 100 most important people of the 20th century.
His name is synonymous not only with the sport he loves but also with the greatness of the sport, as well as the charm and warmth he exudes both on and off the pitch. Few have done it better, or with more contagious joy.