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Football legend Pele dies aged 82 after cancer battle


ele, the Brazil footballing legend and three-time World Cup winner, has died at the age of 82.

He was widely considered to be football’s first global superstar and had been treated for colon cancer, following surgery to remove a tumour in September 2021, and had required regular medical treatment.

After being admitted back into hospital at the end of November to re-evaluate his cancer treatment, he was diagnosed with a respiratory infection before being moved to palliative care when his body became unresponsive to chemotherapy.

Doctors and nurses at the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo made him as comfortable as possible, while his wife, Marcia Aoki, remained by his bedside. He died at 3.27pm Brazilian time on Thursday due to multiple organ failure resulting from his colon cancer, the hospital said in a statement.

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Cristiano Ronaldo shared an image of the pair together on Instagram with a tribute message.

Translated from Portugese, the message read: “My deep condolences to all of Brazil, and in particular to the family of Edson Arantes do Nascimento.

“A mere “goodbye” to the eternal King Pelé will never be enough to express the pain that the entire football world is currently embracing. An inspiration to so many millions, a reference yesterday, today and forever. The love you always showed me was reciprocated in every moment we shared even from distance. He will never be forgotten and his memory will live forever in each and every one of us football lovers. Rest in peace King Pelé.”

Argentina’s World Cup winner Lionel Messi posted a picture on Instagram of him with Pele with the message: “Rest in peace, @pele.”

His daughter Kely Nascimento has kept fans updated on her father’s condition with regular social media updates from hospital.

On Thursday she posted a picture of what appeared to be Pele’s family’s hands on his body in hospital and wrote: “Everything we are is thanks to you. We love you infinitely. Rest in peace.”

Pele – originally named Edson Arantes do Nascimento – began playing for Santos at the age of 15 and the Brazilian national team a year later, bursting onto the world football scene as a 17-year-old in the 1958 World Cup.

During his international career, he won three World Cups – in 1958, 1962 and 1970 – the only player to achieve this to this day.

His role in Brazil’s third victory, in Mexico in 1970, has gone down as one of the greatest performances ever, as he played a key role in arguably the sport’s greatest ever international team.

Another modern star of the game, Kylian Mbappe, wrote on Instagram: “The king of football has left us but his legacy will never be forgotten. RIP King.”

Pele’s glittering 20-year career from 1957 to 1977 saw him score 757 goals in 831 games, although Santos claim his tally was closer to 1,000.

England World Cup winner Sir Geoff Hurst tweeted that Pele was the ‘greatest ever’.

He wrote: “I have so many memories of Pele, without doubt the best footballer I ever played against (with Bobby Moore being the best footballer I ever played alongside). For me Pele remains the greatest of all time and I was proud to be on the the pitch with him. RIP Pele and thank you.”

The Wembley Arch has been lit up gold and green, Brazil’s national colours, in tribute.

Gary Lineker tweeted: “Pele has died. The most divine of footballers and joyous of men. He played a game only a few chosen ones have come close to. 3 times he lifted the most coveted gold trophy in that beautiful yellow shirt. He may have left us but he’ll always have footballing immortality. RIP Pele.”

Pele’s Twitter account posted: “Inspiration and love marked the journey of King Pele, who peacefully passed away today. Love, love and love, forever.”

England’s national football team tweeted: “One of the greatest to have graced the beautiful game.

“Farewell, Pelé. You will never be forgotten.”

Sadiq Khan, who had met the legend, also tweeted a picture of the pair together.

The Mayor of London wrote: “RIP Pelé. A hero to so many and one of the greatest to ever grace the game.”

Pele score some great goals that are still seen on YouTube compilations to this day and in 2000 Fifa named him and Diego Maradona the two players of the century. He was then, in 2004, charged by Fifa with drawing up a list of the 100 best living footballers as part of the body’s 100 year anniversary – although his list actually came to 125.

And his appeal was seen in sports beyond football, with British distance runner Mo Farah calling him the ‘king’ of football. Former Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt also shared a picture of the pair together.

Pele ended his career with a sold out game in America when he played in a friendly between Santos and New York Cosmos – the US team where he had played out the final three years of his career. He played 45 minutes for both sides and scored a 30-yard free kick, which proved to be his final goal. In a mark of his impact on football, Cosmos attendances dropped after his retirement and the North American Soccer League folded in 1985.

Until a few weeks ago, Pele remained the all time top scorer for the Brazilian men’s national team but his record 77 goals have now been equalled by Neymar – who slotted in against Croatia at the World Cup. But while Neymar needed 124 games to hit the mark, Pele did it in 92.

Neymar made his own tribute to “the king” on Instagram, writing in Portugese: “Before Pelé, 10 was just a number. I’ve read this phrase somewhere, at some point in my life. But this sentence, beautiful, is incomplete. I would say before Pelé football was just a sport. Pelé has changed it all. He turned football into art, into entertainment He gave voice to the poor, to the blacks and especially: He gave visibility to Brazil. Soccer and Brazil have raised their status thanks to the King! He’s gone but his magic remains. Pelé is FOREVER!!”

After retiring, Pele became a Unesco good will ambassador and took on ceremonial positions within Brazil. He was married three times, with Marcia Aoki ​surviving him, and had seven children – with Edinho becoming a professional footballer too, as a goalkeeper in the Brazilian league.

Marucs Rashford wrote: “Rest easy king. The football world has lost an absolute legend!”

Pele said of himself: “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”

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