'Football in four letters': Global media bows to 'King' Pele

His face appeared on televisions around the world and dominated the homepages of news outlets everywhere as global media bowed to the late, great Pele, the undisputed "King" of football.

News organisations across the planet hailed the legendary Brazilian, who died Thursday at the age of 82 and was widely considered the greatest footballer to ever play the game.

To the Brazilian daily O Globo, Pele may have died, but he remained the "immortal king of football".

The Folha de S.Paulo quoted the late Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade, who said: "The difficulty, the extraordinary, is not to score 1,000 goals like Pele — it's to score one goal like Pele."

Their obituary suggested that while Edson Arantes do Nascimento -- Pele's birth name -- may have passed on, "it isn't true that Pele is dead".

In Argentina -- home of Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, both also contenders for the title of greatest of all time -- the Clarin remembered Pele as "a supreme symbol of football's spectacle" and a "great among the greats".

The Argentine sport daily Ole wrote: "Beyond the rivalry that exists between Argentina and Brazil, no one can doubt that Pele was one of the greatest footballers in history, for many the best, on top of Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi".

In Britain, The Times hailed him as "football's first world superstar".

"Pele popularised the description of football as 'the beautiful game' and no one played it more beautifully or with such joy than the man known as the King in his native Brazil," The Times said in its obituary.

- 'An idea of perfection' -

The Guardian had a touching tribute from Jorge Valdano -- a team-mate of Maradona's when they lifted the 1986 World Cup trophy -- who watched Pele's exploits in the 1970 World Cup on a TV bought specially for the then 14-year-old by his mother.

"Pele is an idea of perfection for me," he told the paper.

"When a television comes into the kitchen of your home, with Pele inside, that marks you for life.

"I cried with emotion, with happiness, because of that Brazil team."

The Sun, to the backdrop of three photos of Pele with Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and, rather incongruously, former England star Wayne Rooney, trumpeted "The Greatest of All Time... He turned football into art".

For the Daily Mail, Pele was "a cut jewel -- sharp edged, glittering and flawless..perfect in every dimenson and stands alone as football's greatest of all time."

German tabloid Bild did not pull their punches, declaring: "Pele was better than Messi, Maradona and (Cristiano) Ronaldo combined."

In Mexico the image of Pele celebrating his third world title win in 1970 at the country's Estadio Azteca circulated widely, with El Universal declaring, "Football in mourning!"

The main story on the homepage of Ecuador's El Universo was titled in part: "Goodbye to Pele, the 'supernatural footballer'".

In the far less football-mad United States, the New York Times called Pele the "global face of soccer" who "helped popularise the sport" stateside with his 1975-1977 stint with the New York Cosmos.

In France, sports daily L'Equipe devoted 22 pages to Pele.

"Behind the sadness is hidden the happiness of having seen him play, seen him dance, even in old images, and of having seen him give another meaning to the most universal game on the planet," purred one of their journalists.

El Pais in Spain, meanwhile, headlined one of several stories on the legend's passing: "Pele, global football in four letters".

Italy's La Stampa cited a quote attributed to the Brazilian writer Jorge Amado: "If football hadn't been called that, it should have been called Pele."

bur-ybl/mlb/smw/cwl/pi/gj