Soccer icon Pele dead at 82

SAO PAOLO, 30 Dec 2022:

Brazilian soccer great Pele, regarded by many as the greatest footballer of all time, died here yesterday from complications of colon cancer. He was 82.

The three-time World Cup champion passed away surrounded by a number of his children and grandchildren at Sao Paulo’s Albert Einstein Hospital.

“Everything we are is thanks to you. We love you infinitely. Rest in peace,” daughter Kely Nascimento, who spent the Christmas holiday with her father at the hospital, wrote on Instagram.

Pele was admitted Nov 29 for an evaluation of the efficacy of the chemotherapy treatments he started after undergoing surgery to remove the tumour in September 2021.

Doctors extended his stay after he developed a respiratory infection and last week, the physicians treating the “King of Football” said that as a result of the progression of the cancer, he required additional care for renal and cardiac problems.

The man born Edson Arantes do Nascimento was declared dead at 3:27pm Thursday local time of “multiple organ failure,” the hospital said.

Pele’s remains are to be transported early next Monday to Santos, 80km from Sao Paulo, for a wake at the stadium of Santos FC, where he played 18 years.

He will be laid to rest on Tuesday in a private ceremony.

The Brazilian government declared three days of mourning and various landmarks across the giant South American country were illuminated in yellow and green – the colours of the national team uniform – as night fell.

Brazil’s incoming president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said of Pele that “few Brazilians took the name of our country as far as he did.”

Tributes to “O Rei” (The King) poured in from around the world.

Pele “changed everything,” current Brazil captain Neymar wrote on Instagram. “He turned football into art, into entertainment. He gave a voice to the poor, to black people and especially: He gave visibility to Brazil. Football and Brazil have raised their status thanks to the King!”

“The king of football has left us but his legacy will never be forgotten. RIP King,” French striker Kylian Mbappe said.

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo said in an Instagram post that “a mere ‘goodbye’ to the eternal King Pele will never be enough to express the pain that currently engulfs the entire football world.”

The captain of 2022 World Cup winners Argentina, Lionel Messi, posted two photos of himself with Pele and another from the Brazilian’s playing days with the caption: “Rest in peace, Pele.”

“Everything you see any player doing, Pele did it first. RIP,” tweeted Manchester City’s Erling Haaland.

Despite his illness, Pele remained active on social media throughout the Nov 20-Dec 18 World Cup tournament in Qatar.

In one of his messages, the Brazilian congratulated Argentina and Messi and praised Mbappe for his three-goal performance in the final.

“What a gift it was to see this spectacle for the future of our sport. And I can’t fail to congratulate (semifinalist) Morocco for their incredible campaign. It’s very good to see Africa shine. Congratulations, Argentina! Diego (Maradona) is surely smiling now,’ Pele wrote.

The tournament in Qatar featured several tributes to Pele, the only player to hoist the World Cup trophy three times: 1958, 1962 and 1970.

Pele, who turned professional at 15, played 18 seasons for the Brazilian club Santos, where he won 48 titles, before a 1975-1977 stint with the New York Cosmos aimed at popularising soccer in the US.

He scored a record 1,283 goals, 95 of them for the Brazilian national team.

FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, proclaimed Pele the best player of the 20th century, while the International Olympic Committee hailed him in 1999 as the athlete of the century.

Pele’s post-football activities included serving as a Unesco goodwill ambassador and from 1995-1999, as Brazil’s first minister of sports.

He is survived by his third wife, Marcia Aoki, and six of his seven children.