Pelé, a Brazilian soccer legend and three-time World Cup winner, has died at the age of 82.
Pele had been treated for colon cancer, following surgery to remove a tumor in September 2021, and had required regular medical treatment.
After being admitted back to hospital in late November to reassess his cancer treatment, he was diagnosed with a respiratory infection before being transferred to hospice care when his body stopped responding to chemotherapy.
Pelé died Thursday at the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo and his daughter, Kely Nascimento, confirmed the news on Instagram, writing: “Everything we are is thanks to you. We love you infinitely. Rest in peace.”
Pelé made his international debut at the age of 16 and announced himself to a worldwide audience in 1958, when, aged just 17, he scored six goals in four games as Brazil won the World Cup for the first time. He scored twice in the 5-2 final win over Sweden in Stockholm.
They would win the World Cup twice more, in 1962 and 1970, when the Selecao produced arguably the best final performance in the competition’s history, defeating Italy 4-1 at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico. Pelé won the Ballon d’Or for the best player of the tournament.
During the tournament, former Manchester City boss Malcolm Allison, who worked as a television summariser, asked: “How do you spell Pele?” Counterpart Pat Crerand replied: “Easy: GOD”
His 1970 teammate Tostao commented: “Pele was the best, he was just perfect. And off the pitch, he’s always smiling and upbeat. You never see him grumpy. He loves to be Pelé ”. Sir Bobby Charlton, part of the England team beaten 1–0 in the group stage of that tournament by Brazil, later commented: “Sometimes I feel like football was invented for this magical player.”
Pelé scored 757 goals in 831 games during a glittering career from 1957 to 1977, though his former club Santos claim his tally was closer to 1,000.