Soccer icon Pelé has passed away at 82. News of the Brazilian football legend’s death made news on Dec. 29, 2022. The athlete, born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, passed away at a Sao Paolo hospital after extended health struggles, as confirmed by his manager Joe Fraga to the New York Times. His physicians previously shared he was battling cancer and “kidney and cardiac dysfunctions.”
The official Twitter account for the late athlete took to the social media platform to release a formal statement. “A inspiração e o amor marcaram a jornada de Rei Pelé, que faleceu no dia de hoje. Amor, amor e amor, para sempre. . Inspiration and love marked the journey of King Pelé, who peacefully passed away today. Love, love and love, forever.,” the post read. Later, former President Barack Obama, 61, took to Instagram to share a tribute post. “Pelé was one of the greatest to ever play the beautiful game. And as one of the most recognizable athletes in the world, he understood the power of sports to bring people together. Our thoughts are with his family and everyone who loved and admired him,” he wrote.
Pele was arguably one of the greatest soccer players to ever live, bringing his country its first World Cup in 1956, and then again in 1962 and 1970. During his 21 year professional career, he scored 1,283 goals over 1,367 professional matches, 77 of which were for Brazil’s national team.
Born in rural Brazil to parents Dondinho and Dona Celeste on Oct. 23, 1940, the origin of his childhood nickname is still up for debate. “Pelé” has no meaning in his native Portuguese.
What was clear was his talent for the sport. As a teen, he was recruited into Bauru Athletic Club for his agility and graceful footwork. After a stellar first season, he was welcomed to Brazil’s World Cup team in 1958 at just 17. The team took home their first Cup that year, winning again during the following tournaments in 1962.
During the 1966 World Cup in England, he was sidelined early in the tournament after being hit by a brutal kick. Watching his team lose from the bench was a tough experience for the champion, but he would rally and bring home the cup for his team again during his final tournament in 1970.
He played in his native Brazil for nearly all of his professional career, representing the team Santos from his rookie season in 1955 until his retirement in 1974. Struggling with debt, however, Pelè signed a $7million contract with the New York Cosmos soccer franchise in 1975 and was back on the field with the North American Soccer League. The deal made him one of the highest-paid athletes in the world at his time and helped popularize the sport in the States.
In 1977, Pelé would hang up his jersey forever, however. Following that, he held the title of Brazil’s minister of sport and was a global ambassador for football.
The star was married three times, first to Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi from 1966 to 1982, then to Assíria Nascimento from 1994 to 2008, and last to Marcia Aoki, married 2016. He fathered 7 kids, including renowned Brazilian goalkeeper Edinho.
Reflecting on his fame back, a reporter once compared him to Jesus Christ, per ESPN. For comparison, the notoriously boastful star said, “There are parts of the world where Jesus Christ is not so well known.”