Brazilian soccer legend Pelé has passed away at the age of 82 after succumbing to a lengthy battle with colon cancer.
Considered to be one of the first great icons of the sport and the only player to ever win three FIFA World Cups, the soccer star reportedly died of multiple organ failure stemming from his cancer diagnosis. The renowned athlete had been hospitalized in São Paulo towards the end of November for a respiratory infection and for complications related to colon cancer which had continued worsen throughout his stay.
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"Inspiration and love marked the journey of King Pelé, who peacefully passed away today," a statement posted to his official Instagram page read. "On his journey, Edson enchanted the world with his genius in sport, stopped a war, carried out social works all over the world and spread what he most believed to be the cure for all our problems: love. His message today becomes a legacy for future generations. Love, love and love, forever."
Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, although better known on the field as Pelé, the world was introduced to the young soccer phenom at the 17 as he lead his home country of Brazil to a 5-2 victory in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. Throughout the span of his 14-year career, Pelé scored 77 goals across 92 international appearances and 1,281 goals across 1,363 professional games total, making him Brazil's all-time top scorer and earning him the nickname of "The King" along the way. Renowned for his fluid play style which was likened to one of Brazil's other great cultural exports, the samba, Pelé has gone on to be synonymous with soccer over the past 60 years, having been dubbed one of the greatest player of all-time by FIFA and voted as World Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics. “I was born to play football, just like Beethoven was born to write music and Michelangelo was born to paint,” he famously once said.
Following word of Pelé's passing, tributes have poured in from across the soccer world. Fellow Brazilian, Neymar wrote on Instagram that “Pelé changed everything. He turned football into art, into entertainment. He gave a voice to the poor, to black people and especially: He gave visibility to Brazil. Football and Brazil have raised their status thanks to the King!”
Other international stars such as Portuguese forward Cristian Ronaldo paid their respects to the late legend, writing on Instagram, “A mere 'goodbye' to the eternal King Pelé will never be enough to express the pain that currently engulfs the entire football world." Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappé also chimed in to say, “The king of football has left us but his legacy will never be forgotten.”
A wake for Pelé will be held at Vila Belmiro, the headquarters of the Santos FC in São Paulo, although an exact date and time have yet to be set.
Photo via Getty/Alessandro Sabattini
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