The football world is mourning Pelé. The legendary Brazilian player and three-time FIFA World Cup winner has died at the age of 82.
When Pelé celebrated his 80th birthday on October 23, 2020, Franz Beckenbauer had a personal message for his friend, “For me, you were and still are the greatest footballer of all time.” The ‘Kaiser’ had first-hand experience of the skills exhibited by “O Rei” – the “King” – including during their time together at New York Cosmos in the North American Soccer League (NASL). Pelé first enchanted fans around the globe with his appearances at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden at the age of 17. His six goals played a big part in Brazil winning its first world title, and Pelé would help the “Seleção” to further triumphs in Chile in 1962 and Mexico in 1970. He remains the only person to lift the World Cup three times as a player.
After scoring 1,281 goals in 1,363 matches, Pelé called time on his playing career in 1977. Church bells rang out across the country to celebrate his 1,000th goal in November 1969, and the Brazilian postal service issued a special stamp to mark the occasion. Pelé won five Brazilian championships with FC Santos, as well as winning the continental Copa Libertadores twice (1962 and 1963) and the Intercontinental Cup. Furthermore, he won the NASL championship in 1977. Between 1956 and 1971, Pelé scored 77 goals in 92 matches for the Brazilian national team. He remains their record goalscorer alongside Neymar, who recently drew level with him. The career of the legendary number 10 included countless personal successes and honours. Pelé was the complete footballer: elegant, quick, dangerous in front of goal, two-footed, a brilliant technician, a strong header of the ball and a robust tackler.
Pelé’s appeal transcended the football pitch. Franz Beckenbauer was among those who appreciated the “great person” who rose from poverty to help others and become a role model for millions. Thanks to his immense popularity, Edson Arantes do Nascimento – the real name of the footballer born in Três Corações in south-eastern Brazil – also entered politics in the 1990s and was appointed as Brazil’s minister of sports. Although Pelé had been seriously ill for some time, news of the football legend’s death is a cause for great sorrow.