Brazil Soccer Icon Pelé Dead at 82

The three-time World Cup winner, who some historians say changed the game forever, died in Brazil.

Brazilian soccer icon Pelé, a three-time World Cup winner who many said changed the game of football, has died. He was 82.

His agent confirmed the news to the Associated Press on Thursday. Just before Christmas, he was placed back into the hospital and a medical report obtained by SKY News showed that he needed care for cardiac and renal dysfunction.

Pelé, who was born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, had been battling health issues for more than a year.

On Nov. 30, amid the ongoing World Cup, the soccer icon was hospitalized with swelling as he underwent chemotherapy. ESPN Brasil reported that he was having cardiac issues and his medical staff were concerned that his chemotherapy treatment was not yielding the results that they hoped for.

In December 2021, he entered a Brazilian hospital for treatment on a colon tumor, ESPN reported. In September 2021, he had a colon tumor removed in a Sao Paolo hospital where he stayed for nearly a month before undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

Following his release from the hospital, he took to social media to post a photo of himself recovering and thank his fans for their support.

Days after he was released and posted on Instagram, he was reportedly back in the ICU for an acid reflux issue, The Guardian reported.

The former Santos and New York Cosmos forward had suffered from hip issues for many years and could not walk unassisted. His limited mobility was evident in the Netflix documentary, “Pelé.”

Hailed as one of the greatest soccer players of all time by all and the absolute greatest by many, the Brazilian made his mark on the world stage when he was a teenager when he represented Brazil at the 1958 World Cup.

Born in the State of Minas Gerais in Brazil on Oct. 23, 1940, Pelé was the son of retired professional footballer Dondinho. Born in poverty outside Sao Paolo, Pelé was determined to be a successful professional player.

In his 2014 bestseller, “Why Soccer Matters,” the athlete explained that his family and the families of his friends were so poor that he tied socks together that they would “borrow” from people in their area to make a ball out of to kick around.

“How did a poor Black boy from rural Brazil, who grew up kicking wadded-up socks and bits of trash around dusty streets, come to be the center of a global phenomenon watched by billions of people around the world?” he wrote about his unlikely rise to the top in “Why Soccer Matters.”

His hard work and talent was evident at a young age. At 15, he started playing professional soccer with his favorite club Santos. He would go on to hold the record for most goals for the club. He made 643 goals in 659 matches.

In 1957, he was wearing Brazil’s iconic canary yellow kit for his international debut in a match against rivals Argentina inside Rio’s historic Maracana stadium. Despite losing 2-1 to Argentina, Pelé scored his first international goal at 16 years and nine months, and he remains the youngest goal scorer for his country.

A hero and prodigy for Santos by the time of the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, he captured the globe’s attention with his speed, tactical ability as well as uncanny eye for goal scoring. He helped his country win the World Cup that year and would go on to win two others. He would also hold the record for most goals for Brazil with 95 between friendly and competitive matches.

Following a remarkable career in both international games representing his country as well as a successful club career with Santos, in 1975 he moved to New York City and played with the New York Cosmos in the North American Soccer League (NASL). He played with the Cosmos for two seasons and helped popularize what he called “The Beautiful Game” in America before retiring for good in 1977.

Following his retirement from the game, he was an ambassador for the sport and regularly met with politicians and world leaders, including U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela and Pope Francis, and charity organizations to help spread the beauty of the game around the world.

In March 2021, Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo broke Pelé's record of goals scored in official matches. Pelé praised Ronaldo for his work.

“Life is a solo flight. Each makes his own journey. And what a beautiful journey you are having," Pele wrote on Instagram. "I admire you a lot, I love watching you play and this is no secret to anyone. Congratulations on breaking my record of goals in official matches.

Pelé had been married three times, most recently in 2016. He is survived by his widow and six children from previous relationships and marriages.

“I’m also grateful to soccer, the most beautiful of games, for taking a tiny kid named Edson, and letting him live the life of “Pelé,” he wrote in “Why Soccer Matters.”

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