Football world pays tribute to Pele after three-time World Cup winner’s death

Tribute have flooded in from around the world following the death of Brazil great Pele at the age of 82 (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)
Tribute have flooded in from around the world following the death of Brazil great Pele at the age of 82 (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)

The footballing world paid tribute to Pele following the death of the Brazil great at the age of 82.

The three-time World Cup winner died on Thursday having been in hospital in Sao Paulo since late November.

Following confirmation of his death, tributes poured in for the player widely regarded as the best to have graced the game.

Pele was a prodigious scorer of goals, and is credited with 1,281 of them across the length of his career by the official FIFA website.

A tweet from the Brazilian Football Federation (CBF) read simply “King Pele”, accompanied by three crown emojis.

Brazil forward Neymar – who moved level with Pele’s record of 77 international goals during the 2022 World Cup – posted his own emotional tribute on Instagram.

“Before Pele, 10 was just a number. I’ve read this phrase somewhere, at some point in my life. But this sentence, beautiful, is incomplete. I would say before Pele football was just a sport. Pele has changed it all,” Neymar said.

“He turned football into art, into entertainment He gave voice to the poor, to the blacks and especially: He gave visibility to Brazil. Soccer and Brazil have raised their status thanks to the King! He’s gone but his magic remains. Pele is FOREVER!!”

The president of the federation, Ednaldo Rodrigues, said in a statement: “The CBF will pay all possible tributes to the greatest athlete of all time. Pele is eternal and we will always work to preserve his history and continue his legacy.”

Former England striker Sir Geoff Hurst – who won the World Cup in 1966, scoring a hat-trick in the final – said on Twitter: “I have so many memories of Pele, without doubt the best footballer I ever played against (with Bobby Moore being the best footballer I ever played alongside).

“For me Pele remains the greatest of all time and I was proud to be on the pitch with him. RIP Pele and thank you.”

Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo posted a message on Instagram alongside a picture of him with the Brazil great expressing his “deepest condolences”.

Ronaldo said: “A mere ‘goodbye’ to the eternal King Pele will never be enough to express the pain that currently embraces the entire world of football.

“An inspiration for so many millions, a reference from yesterday, today, forever. The affection he always showed for me was reciprocal in every moment we shared, even from a distance.

“He will never be forgotten and his memory will live on forever in each of us football lovers. Rest in peace, King Pele.”

France forward Kylian Mbappe – who in 2018 joined Pele as the only teenagers to score in a World Cup final – wrote on Instagram: “The king of football has left us but his legacy will never be forgotten. RIP KING.”

Argentina captain Lionel Messi simply wrote: “Rest in peace, @pele.”

European football’s governing body UEFA said in a statement on Twitter: “Tonight, we join fans the world over in mourning Pele, one of football’s all-time greatest players.

“He was the first global superstar of the game and played a pioneering role in football’s rise to become the world’s most popular sport. Rest in peace, Pele.”

The Football Association announced Wembley’s arch would be lit up in Brazil colours in Pele’s memory.

There were also rounds of applause ahead of Thursday evening’s Football League matches around the country, which kicked off shortly after news broke of Pele’s death.

The Premier League said in a statement: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Pele, an extraordinarily gifted footballer who transcended our sport and inspired millions throughout his remarkable career.

“Our thoughts and sincere condolences go to Pele’s family and friends.”