Dec 29, 2022
By Angus Gillespie
Pele, 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, has died.
The standard-bearer of “the beautiful game” had undergone treatment for colon cancer since 2021. He had been hospitalized for the last month in Sao Paulo with multiple ailments, including heart and kidney problems.
Pele 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 and Lionel Messi of Argentina and Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal are mentioned alongside Pele.
“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 Pele 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 wonderful pass for the last goal in a 4-1 victory over Italy.
In 1975, he joined the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League. Although 34 and past his prime, Pele gave soccer a higher profile in North America. He led the Cosmos to the 1977 league title and scored 64 goals in three seasons.
Pele 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.
Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, in the small city of Tres Coracoes in the interior of Minas Gerais state on Oct. 23, 1940, Pele grew up shining shoes to buy his soccer kit.
His daughter and agent both confirmed his death.
Pele was 82.
(with files from AP)