World soccer legend Pelé dies at 82

by: The Associated Press via Nexstar Media Wire

Posted: Dec 29, 2022 / 01:56 PM EST

Updated: Dec 29, 2022 / 07:16 PM EST

SAO PAULO (AP) — Pelé, the Brazilian king of soccer who won a record three World Cups and became one of the most commanding sports figures of the last century, died Thursday. He was 82.

The standard-bearer of “the beautiful game” had undergone treatment for colon cancer since 2021. He had been hospitalized for the last month with multiple ailments.

His agent Joe Fraga confirmed his death.

Brazil’s Pele wears his national team’s jersey in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 25, 1962. Pelé, the Brazilian king of soccer who won a record three World Cups and became one of the most commanding sports figures of the last century, died in Sao Paulo on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. He was 82.

Widely regarded as one of soccer’s greatest players, Pelé spent nearly two decades enchanting fans and dazzling opponents as the game’s most prolific scorer with Brazilian club Santos and the Brazil national team.

His grace, athleticism and mesmerizing moves transfixed players and fans. He orchestrated a fast, fluid style that revolutionized the sport — a samba-like flair that personified his country’s elegance on the field.

He carried Brazil to soccer’s heights and became a global ambassador for his sport in a journey that began on the streets of Sao Paulo state, where he would kick a sock stuffed with newspapers or rags.

In the conversation about soccer’s greatest players, only the late Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are mentioned alongside Pelé.

Different sources, counting different sets of games, list Pelé’s goal totals anywhere between 650 (league matches) and 1,281 (all senior matches, some against low-level competition.)

The player who would be dubbed “The King” was introduced to the world at 17 at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, the youngest player ever at the tournament. He was carried off the field on teammates’ shoulders after scoring two goals in Brazil’s 5-2 victory over the host country in the final.

Injury limited him to just two games when Brazil retained the world title in 1962, but Pelé was the emblem of his country’s World Cup triumph of 1970 in Mexico. He scored in the final and set up Carlos Alberto with a nonchalant pass for the last goal in a 4-1 victory over Italy.

The image of Pelé in a bright, yellow Brazil jersey, with the No. 10 stamped on the back, remains alive with soccer fans everywhere. As does his trademark goal celebration — a leap with a right fist thrust high above his head.

Pelé’s fame was such that in 1967 factions of a civil war in Nigeria agreed to a brief cease-fire so he could play an exhibition match in the country. He was knighted by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in 1997. When he visited Washington to help popularize the game in North America, it was the U.S. president who stuck out his hand first.

Brazil’s soccer …

“My name is Ronald Reagan, I’m the president of the United States of America,” the host said to his visitor. “But you don’t need to introduce yourself because everyone knows who Pelé is.”

Pelé was Brazil’s first modern Black national hero but rarely spoke about racism in a country where the rich and powerful tend to hail from the white minority.

Opposing fans taunted Pelé with monkey chants at home and all over the world.

“He said that he would never play if he had to stop every time he heard those chants,” said Angelica Basthi, one of Pelé’s biographers. “He is key for Black people’s pride in Brazil, but never wanted to be a flagbearer.”

Pelé’s life after soccer took many forms. He was a politician — Brazil’s Extraordinary Minister for Sport — a wealthy businessman, and an ambassador for UNESCO and the United Nations.

He had roles in movies, soap operas and even composed songs and recorded CDs of popular Brazilian music.

As his health deteriorated, his travels and appearances became less frequent. He was often seen in a wheelchair during his final years and did not attend a ceremony to unveil a statue of him representing Brazil’s 1970 World Cup team. Pelé spent his 80th birthday isolated with a few family members at a beach home.

Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, in the small city of Tres Coracoes in the interior of Minas Gerais state on Oct. 23, 1940, Pelé grew up shining shoes to buy his modest soccer gear.

Pelé’s talent drew attention when he was 11, and a local professional player brought him to Santos’ youth squads. It didn’t take long for him to make it to the senior squad.

Despite his youth and 5-foot-8 frame, he scored against grown men with the same ease he displayed against friends back home. He debuted with the Brazilian club at 16 in 1956, and the club quickly gained worldwide recognition.

The name Pelé came from him mispronouncing the name of a player called Bilé.

He went to the 1958 World Cup as a reserve but became a key player for his country’s championship team. His first goal, in which he flicked the ball over the head of a defender and raced around him to volley it home, was voted as one of the best in World Cup history.

The 1966 World Cup in England — won by the hosts — was a bitter one for Pelé, by then already considered the world’s top player. Brazil was knocked out in the group stage and Pelé, angry at the rough treatment, swore it was his last World Cup.

He changed his mind and was rejuvenated in the 1970 World Cup. In a game against England, he struck a header for a certain score, but the great goalkeeper Gordon Banks flipped the ball over the bar in an astonishing move. Pelé likened the save — one of the best in World Cup history — to a “salmon climbing up a waterfall.” Later, he scored the opening goal in the final against Italy, his last World Cup match.

In all, Pelé played 114 matches with Brazil, scoring a record 95 goals, including 77 in official matches.

His run with Santos stretched over three decades until he went into semi-retirement after the 1972 season. Wealthy European clubs tried to sign him, but the Brazilian government intervened to keep him from being sold, declaring him a national treasure.

On the field, Pelé’s energy, vision and imagination drove a gifted Brazilian national team with a fast, fluid style of play that exemplified “O Jogo Bonito” — Portuguese for “The Beautiful Game.” His 1977 autobiography, “My Life and the Beautiful Game,” made the phrase part of soccer’s lexicon.

In 1975, he joined the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League. Although 34 and past his prime, Pelé gave soccer a higher profile in North America. He led the Cosmos to the 1977 league title and scored 64 goals in three seasons.

Pelé ended his career on Oct. 1, 1977, in an exhibition between the Cosmos and Santos before a crowd in New Jersey of some 77,000. He played half the game with each club. Among the dignitaries on hand was perhaps the only other athlete whose renown spanned the globe — Muhammad Ali.

Pelé would endure difficult times in his personal life, especially when his son Edinho was arrested on drug-related charges. Pelé had two daughters out of wedlock and five children from his first two marriages, to Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi and Assiria Seixas Lemos. He later married businesswoman Marcia Cibele Aoki.

Why was Pele called Pele, what is his real name and the origin of the nickname ‘O’Rei’?

We tell you the reason why the famous Edson Arantes was called Pele.. A football legend, one of the best players in the history of the sport and undoubtedly the best of his time.

Edson Arantes do Nascimento passed away after spending a month in the Albert Einstein Hospital.

The best footballer in history had one of the most famous nicknames in the world, and here we explain why Edson Arantes do Nascimento was called Pele.

Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known as Pele, was born on October 23, 1940 and was a Brazilian footballer who played as a striker. He was the only player to win three World Cups, in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

At the time, he was the youngest player to win a World Cup, at the age of 17.

Why is Edson Arantes better known as Pele?

For that you have to go back to his childhood. According to his uncle Jorge, when Edson Arantes was a little boy, they put him in as a goalkeeper in order to give his opponents an advantage.

Pele was so good as a striker that his opponents didn’t stand a chance.

When he made saves, some compared him to Bile, a goalkeeper his father had played with. They began to call him Bile until his nickname evolved into Pele for good.

Pele himself admitted that he had never liked this pseudonym, since his real name ‘Edson’ came from the inventor Thomas Edison and he was proud of it. He even came to blows with the schoolmate who invented it, which resulted in a two-day suspension from school.

He also said that since it means nothing in his language, he thought it was an insult but that changed once he discovered that, in Hebrew, it means “miracle”.

“Over the years I have learned to live with two people in my heart. One is Edson, who has fun with his friends and family; the other is the football player Pele,” he once said in an interview.

 

 

Why do they call him ‘O Rei’?

His name took second place, as he was called Pele from an early age. After his three World Cups he also earned the nickname ‘King’. The 1958 World Cup that brought Pele‘s Brazil to prominence was the first time the nickname ‘O Rei’ arrived.

Paris Match, a French magazine, was the catalyst for this (‘Le Roy’ in French) after this title.