Pele, the footballer who rose from impoverished Brazilian slums to become the worlds best-known, and at one point, highest-paid, has died at age 82 after a battle with colon cancer. Pele had a brief spell in Sao Paulo’s Albert Einstein hospital before passing. Last year, he had a tumor on his colon removed.
Pele, who called soccer “the beautiful game,” was a pure athlete who had a spectacular career that produced more World Cup titles and more thrilling moments than anyone else.
Albert Einstein hospital, where Pele was being treated, said he died at 3:27PM local time December 29 “due to multiple organ failures resulting from the progression of colon cancer associated with his previous medical condition.”
The legend’s death was confirmed in an Instagram post.
“Inspiration and love marked the journey of King Pele, who peacefully passed away today,” it read, adding he had “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.”
“Everything that we are, is thanks to you,” his daughter Kely Nascimento said in a post on Instagram on Thursday. “We love you infinitely. Rest in peace.”
The government of President Jair Bolsonaro, who leaves office on Sunday, declared three days of mourning. In a statement, he said Pele was “a great citizen and patriot, raising the name of Brazil wherever he went.”
Bolsonaro’s successor, President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, wrote on Twitter that “few Brazillians carried the name of our country as far as he did.”
Kylian Mbappé, the French forward viewed by many as the present day’s best soccer player in the world, also offered his condolences.
“The king of football has left us but his legacy will never be forgotten,” he tweeted. “RIP KING.”
Sir Geoff Hurst, the English footballer and hat trick hero of the 1966 final, released a tribute in which he stated: “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.”
He added: “For me, Pele remains the greatest of all time and I was proud to be on the pitch with him. RIP Pele and thank you.”
Sir Bobby Charlton, the only other survivor of Sir Alf Ramsey’s 1966 winning XI, said: “Pele was a truly magical footballer and a wonderful human being.
“It was an honour to have shared a pitch with him and I send my sincerest condolences to his family, friends and the Brazilian people.”
Denis Law, another of Pele’s contemporaries, said: “This is very sad news indeed. Pele was an unbelievable footballer. He had style, grace, flair and made everything look so easy.
“The precision in the way he played made him a joy to watch.
“However, more than anything, he was a good man with a great presence and a fantastic smile.”
Pele, widely considered the greatest ever player and a three-time World Cup champion reached the zenith of his greatness in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, which was the first to be televised in color.
Even on Brazil’s 1970 World Cup-winning team, hailed as the greatest ever to play international soccer, Pele was still seen as the leader.
His first World Cup medal he took home in 1958 from Sweden at age 17, and he took home a second four years later in Chile—although he missed much of the tournament due to injury.
He took home his third World Cup in 1970 from Mexico, where he captained what is considered to be one of the greatest teams ever.
Widely considered to be one of the greatest players ever, Pele also won the Golden Ball as Best Player in 1970. Pele dazzled not only on the World Cup stage for his national team, but also in club games and international tours before helping generate a wave of excitement about the sport in the U.S. with his later-career spell with the New York Cosmos.
Pele, named athlete of the twentieth century, is the youngest player ever to score at the FIFA Men’s World Cup, and the youngest ever to score three goals in a single game.Pelé is survived by six of his seven children, as well as his wife, businesswoman Marcia Cibele Aoki.