SAO PAULO, December 29, “Reuters”: Pele, the legendary Brazilian footballer who rose from poverty to become one of the greatest and most recognized athletes in modern history, died on Thursday at the age of 82.
Sao Paulo’s Albert Einstein Hospital, where Pele was being treated, said he died at 3:27 p.m. of “multiple organ failure caused by the progression of colon cancer related to his pre-existing medical condition.”
The death of the only man to win the World Cup three times as a player was confirmed on his Instagram page.
“Inspiration and love marked the journey of King Pele, who passed away peacefully today,” it said, adding that he “enchanted the world with his sporting genius, ended war, did social work around the world and spread what he was.” did many believe that it is the cure for all our problems: love.”
Tributes poured in from across the worlds of sport, politics and popular culture for a figure who epitomized Brazil’s dominance of the beautiful game.
The government of President Jair Bolsonaro, who leaves office on Sunday, has declared three days of mourning and said in a statement that Pele was “a great citizen and patriot who speaks for Brazil wherever he goes.”
Bolsonaro’s successor, President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, tweeted that “few Brazilians have carried the name of our country as much as he has.”
French President Emmanuel Macron said that Pele’s legacy will live forever. “The game. The king. Eternity,” Macron wrote on Twitter.
Pele was undergoing chemotherapy because he had a colon tumor removed in September 2021.
He also struggled to walk without support after botched hip surgery in 2012. In February 2020, on the eve of the coronavirus pandemic, his son Edinho said Pele’s ailing physical condition had left him depressed.
A 24-hour vigil will be held for Pele on Monday at the center of the stadium at Santos Stadium, his hometown club where he started playing as a teenager and quickly rose to fame.
The next day, the procession carrying his casket will pass through the streets of Santos, passing the neighborhood where his 100-year-old mother lives, and will end at the Ecumenical Memorial Necropolis cemetery, where he will be buried in a private ceremony.
“WHAT IS POSSIBLE?”
US President Joe Biden said on his Twitter that Pele’s rise from humble beginnings to becoming a football legend is a “possible” story.
Pelé, born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, joined Santos in 1956 and turned the small seaside club into one of the most famous names in football.
In addition to regional and national titles, Pele won two Copa Libertadores, the South American equivalent of the Champions League, and two Intercontinental Cups, the annual tournament between the top teams in Europe and South America.
He brought home three World Cup winner’s medals, the first as a 17-year-old in Sweden in 1958, the second in Chile four years later, although he missed most of the tournament due to injury, and the third in Mexico in 1970. , when he led what is regarded as one of the best sides to ever play the game.
He retired from Santos in 1974, but made a surprise comeback a year later, signing a lucrative contract to join the New York Cosmos in the then-nascent North American Soccer League.
In an illustrious 21-year career, he scored between 1,281 and 1,283 goals, depending on how the matches are counted.
However, Pele transcended football like no player before or since, and he became one of the first global icons of the 20th century.
With his winning smile and awe-inspiring humility that charmed legions of fans, he was better known than many Hollywood stars, popes or presidents, many, if not most, of whom he met during a six-decade career as a player and corporate pitchman. .
“I’m sad, but I’m also proud to be Brazilian, to be from the country of Pele, a guy who was a great athlete,” said Ciro Campos, 49, a biologist in Rio de Janeiro. “And also off the field he was a cool person, not an arrogant athlete.”
Pele attributed his unique blend of talent, creative genius and technical skill to a youth spent playing pick-up games in small towns in Brazil, often using grapefruit or rolled-up rags because his family couldn’t afford real ones. ball
Pele was named “athlete of the century” by the International Olympic Committee, “footballer of the century” by FIFA, and “national treasure” by the Brazilian government.
His popularity was often overwhelming. Adults regularly cried in his presence. When he was a player, souvenir-seeking fans ran onto the field after games and tore off his shorts, socks and even his underwear.
His home in Brazil was less than a mile from the beach, but he hadn’t been there for nearly two decades because of his fear of crowds.
Still, even in vulnerable moments among friends, she rarely complained. He believed his talent to be a gift from God, and he spoke movingly about how football allowed him to travel the world, cheer cancer patients and survivors of war and famine, and provide for a family he often didn’t know growing up. the source of their next meal.
“God gave me this ability for one reason, to make people happy,” he said in a 2013 interview with Reuters. “Whatever I did, I tried not to forget it.”
Brazil’s CBF football federation said “Pele was much more than the greatest sportsman of all time… The king of football was the ultimate representative of a victorious Brazil.”
Kylian Mbappe, the French star considered by many to be the best footballer in the world today, also offered his condolences.
“The king of football has left us, but his legacy will never be forgotten,” he wrote on Twitter. “KING RIP”.
Reporting by Andrew Downey and Gabriel Araujo; Additional reporting by Peter Frontini, Carolina Pulis and Sergio Queiros; Editing by Gabriel Stargardter, Daniel Wallis and Rosalba O’Brien
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