Pelé, the Brazilian soccer legend who won three World Cups and became the sport’s first global icon, has died at the age of 82.
“Everything that we are, is thanks to you,” his daughter Kely Nascimento wrote in a post on Instagram. “We love you infinitely. Rest in peace.”
Pelé was admitted to a hospital in São Paulo in late November for a respiratory infection and for complications related to colon cancer. Last week, the hospital said his health had worsened as his cancer progressed.
For more than 60 years, the name Pelé has been synonymous with soccer. He played in four World Cups and is the only player in history to win three, but his legacy stretched far beyond his trophy haul and remarkable goal-scoring record.
“I was born to play football, just like Beethoven was born to write music and Michelangelo was born to paint,” Pelé famously said.
Pelé was born Edson Arantes do Nascimento in Três Corações – an inland city roughly 155 miles northwest of Rio de Janeiro – in 1940, before his family moved to the city of Bauru in São Paulo.
Pelé’s life in pictures
As a child, his first taste of soccer involved playing barefoot with socks and rags rolled up into a ball – a humble beginning that would grow into a long and fruitful career.
But when he first took up the game, his ambitions were modest.
“My dad was a good football player, he scored a lot of goals,” Pelé told CNN in 2015. “His name was Dondinho; I wanted to be like him.
“He was famous in Brazil, in Minas Gerais. He was my role model. I always wanted to be like him, but what happened, to this day, only God can explain.”
As a teenager, Pelé left home and began training with Santos, scoring his first goal for the club side before his 16th birthday. He would go on to score 619 times over 638 appearances for the club, but it is his feats in the iconic yellow jersey of Brazil for which he is best remembered.
The world first got a glimpse of Pelé’s dazzling ability in 1958, when he made his World Cup debut aged 17. He scored Brazil’s only goal in the country’s quarterfinal victory against Wales, then netted a hat-trick in the semifinal against France and two in the final against host Sweden.
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