Pele is no more. Arguably the best footballer the world has seen died of cancer on December 29. He was 82. A three-time World Cup winner, he was the sport’s first global superstar, and even though others, such as Argentina’s late World Cup winning superstar Diego Maradona had been compared with him, Pele remained miles ahead in love and affection of his fans.
Pele, or Edson Arantes do Nascimento, had been treated for colon cancer, following surgery to remove a tumour in September 2021. He had been hospitalised since November with multiple ailments.
Pelé, who had a colon tumour removed in 2021, was readmitted to Albert Einstein hospital in São Paulo in November amid deteriorating health. A hospital statement on December 29 confirmed the death of “our dear King of Football” at 3.27pm local time, “due to the failure of multiple organs, a result of the progression of cancer associated with his previous clinical condition.”
After reports he was receiving end-of-life care, Pelé said he felt “strong, with a lot of hope” in a social media post on December 3. A further statement from the hospital on December 21 reported that Pelé “requires further care related to renal and cardiac dysfunctions” after the “progression” of his colon cancer. Social media posts from his daughter Kely Nascimento showed that family members had gathered at the hospital to spend Christmas with him.
Pele made his international debut as a 17-year-old with a hat trick in the 1958 World Cup final. He later led the charge of arguably the greatest team the world has ever seen, Brazil’s world-dominating side of 1970. Pele was a member of Brazil’s golden generation. His teammates included Nilton Santos, Didi, Garrincha, and Jairzinho, all of whom were among the best players of the time.
Brazil’s joint all-time record scorer won three World Cups as a player, in 1958, 1962 and 1970, over a 14-year international career that included 77 goals in 92 appearances for his country. Nicknamed “the Black Pearl” and “the King”, Pelé was one of only three players to have scored in four World Cups. In 1,363 games, he scored 1,281 goals, at the time of his retirement in 1977 more than twice as many as his nearest challenger.