Brazilian football legend Edson Arantes do Nascimento, famously called Pelé, passed away at aged 82 at a hospital in Sao Paulo on Thursday.
His agent Joe Fraga confirmed the news.
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. Pele had been battling cancer for a while and recently, his health condition worsened during hospital stay to regulate his cancer medication, doctors had announced earlier this week.
Pele 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.
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 on Oct. 23, 1940, in the small Minas Gerais town of Tres Corações, or “Three Hearts”, Edson Arantes do Nascimento learned the game from his father, a semi-professional player whose promising career was derailed by a knee injury. With sublime skills and a winning smile he went on to score a world record 1,281 goals, and is the only player ever to win the World Cup three times.
Pele’s 1,281 goals in 1,366 games, as tabulated by FIFA’s website, came at a startling rate of 0.94 per match. Some of those were friendlies or came in games played as part of his military service, but he was just as prolific in official tournaments, with 757 goals in 812 games. The goals that made Pele the greatest of all time. In all, Pelé played 114 matches for Brazil, scoring a record 95 goals, including 77 in official matches.