Farewell Pelé: The Global Face of Soccer

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Pelé, Brazilian soccer star and only player to win the World Cup three times, dies at age 82

  • Pelé has died at age 82, his daughter announced.
  • He was a Brazilian soccer icon and the only player to win the World Cup trophy three times.
  • FIFA named him the “greatest of all time” in 2012 and the International Olympic Committee named him the “athlete of the century” in 1999.

Edson Arantes do Nascimento, otherwise known as Pelé, passed away at 82 on Thursday. His daughter, Kely Nascimento, announced his death via Instagram. In recent years, the soccer icon had been battling cancer, kidney and cardiac dysfunctions, and a respiratory infection. He was widely seen as one of the greatest of all time, having won his home country Brazil the World Cup trophy a record three times, becoming an international superstar and the highest-paid team athlete in the world at the time. He was also a friend of Argentine legend Diego Maradona, who called Pelé an icon and thanked him at a friendly match in 2016.

Pelé was born in 1940, earning his nickname after mispronouncing another player’s name. He was signed to Santos Football Club in Brazil in 1956, going on to win the São Paulo league championship and the Libertadores Cup and Intercontinental Club Cup in 1962 and 1963, respectively. His international debut came a year later, and at 17, he became the youngest World Cup player ever. He scored a hat trick in the semifinal against France and two goals in the championship game against host Sweden. Brazil declared him a “national treasure” in order to prevent him from being signed by wealthier European teams, and Santos went on an international tour to give fans a chance to see the star.

Pelé went on to score more than 1,000 goals in his career, winning back-to-back titles in 1962 and 1970, and becoming the only player to win the trophy three times. He retired from Santos in 1974 and joined the New York Cosmos a year later, signing a three-year $7 million deal. He left soccer in 1977 and devoted himself to charitable works and improving the lives of Brazil’s poor. He became a UNESCO global ambassador in 1994 and served as a minister for sport in Brazil. He also published several autobiographies that went on to become best-sellers and starred in documentary films about his life. He was named FIFA’s “greatest of all time” in 2012 and the IOC’s “athlete of the century” in 1999.

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