Brazilian football legend Pele, arguably the greatest player ever, has died at the age of 82.
He is credited with scoring a world record 1,281 goals in 1,363 appearances during a 21-year career, including 77 goals in 92 matches for his country.
The only player to win the World Cup three times, lifting the trophy in 1958, 1962 and 1970, Pele was named Fifa’s Player of the Century in 2000.
He had been suffering with kidney and prostate problems in recent years.
Pele had surgery to remove a tumor from his colon in September 2021 at the Albert Einstein Hospital in São Paulo, after the tumor was detected in routine tests. He was readmitted to the hospital in late November 2022.
His daughter Kely Nascimento has kept fans updated on her father’s condition with regular social media updates from hospital.
On Thursday she posted a picture of what appeared to be Pele’s family’s hands on his body in hospital and wrote: “Everything we are is thanks to you. We love you infinitely. Rest in peace.”
The hospital confirmed that Pele died “due to the failure of multiple organs, a result of the progression of colon cancer associated with his previous clinical condition”.
Pele’s Twitter account posted: “Inspiration and love marked the journey of King Pele, who peacefully passed away today. Love, love and love, forever.”
The Brazilian Football Confederation said: “Pele was much more than the greatest sportsperson of all time.
“Our king of football was the greatest exponent of a victorious Brazil, who was never afraid when faced with difficulty. He promised his father a World Cup and he presented us with three.
“The King gave us a new Brazil and we are so thankful for his legacy. Thank you, Pele.”
Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele, became a global star when, aged 17, he helped Brazil win the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, forcing his way into the starting line-up by the knockout stages.
He scored the only goal in a 1–0 victory over Wales in the quarter-finals, a hat-trick against France in the semi-final and two in a 5–2 triumph over the hosts in the final.
|Scored a reported 1,281 goals in 1,363 games||Made 14 appearances at World Cup finals, scoring 12 goals|
|Racked up 126 goals in 1959 alone||Only player to win three World Cups|
Pele had made his debut for club side Santos two years earlier at the age of 15, scoring in a 7–1 win over Corinthians de Santo Andre.
It was the first of 643 goals he would score for the club in official competitions over 19 years, although Santos claims the total is more than 1,000. once exhibition matches – often against high-profile European opposition – are taken into account.
The Brazilian Football Confederation and Santos say Pele scored 1,283 goals in 1,367 matches, while Fifa claims it was 1,281 goals in 1,366 games.
At the 1962 World Cup, Pele, then 21, scored a brilliant individual goal in a 2–0 win over Mexico to open their campaign, but was injured in the next match and watched from the sidelines as his team defended their title.
The final part of his trilogy of World Cup wins was his most iconic. After being fouled out of the 1966 tournament in England, he was the fulcrum of a thrilling attacking team that swept to the title in 1970. scoring the opening goal in a 4–1 win over Italy in the final.
From his joyful tears on the chest of team-mate Nilton Santos to his embrace with England captain Bobby Moore, Pele’s moments of magic have spanned eras and defined the history of the sport.
He finished his club career as part of a star-studded New York Cosmos side, playing alongside German legend Franz Beckenbauer and fellow 1970 World Cup winner Carlos Alberto.
“In music there is Beethoven and the rest. In football, there is Pele and the rest,” he said in 2000.
In a poll conducted by BBC Sport in 2020, Pele was voted greatest player ahead of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Diego Maradona and Johan Cruyff.
‘A boy genius, a World Cup hero, a global icon’
BBC Sport chief football writer Phil McNulty
The image of the shirtless Pele being carried aloft by team-mates and supporters after the World Cup was won in Mexico City in 1970 is seared on the memory, along with that famous picture of another shirtless embrace with England captain Bobby Moore (above), a gesture packed with mutual respect, after Brazil’s 1-0 group game victory in Guadalajara.
His greatness can be measured by the simple fact that he could make football a spectacle of natural grace and beauty when he missed as much as when he scored.
One of the game’s first global personalities, Pele layered his brilliance across a career spanning from a teenager with Santos to a money-spinner at the New York Cosmos.
Wherever football is played, the name of Pele will be synonymous with it.