The Associated Press confirmed the news, saying: “Brazilian soccer legend Pelé, winner of record 3 World Cups and standard-bearer for ‘the beautiful game,’ has died at 82.”
Widely considered one of the greatest players of all time, Pele is the only man to have won the World Cup on three occasions, as he helped Brazil to success at the 1958, 1962 and 1970 tournaments, also winning the Golden Ball for best player at the latter.
At the first of those, the then-17-year-old became the youngest player to appear at a men’s World Cup although his record was subsequently broken by Northern Ireland’s Norman Whiteside.
During a 21-year playing career, he is said to have scored 1,283 goals in 1,363 senior matches for clubs and country, although that number is disputed given it included unofficial friendlies and tour matches.
What is indisputable however is that he led his only major Brazilian club, Santos, to six Campeonato Brasileiro Série A titles, two Copa Libertadores crowns, two Intercontinental Cups and one Intercontinental Supercup. He then moved to the USA to play for New York Cosmos and helped them win the North American Soccer League (NASL) in 1977, while being named in the NASL all-star team on three occasions during his stay.
Pele battled ill health in recent times - he had a tumour removed from his colon in September 2021 and had since been in and out of hospital for treatment on a regular basis as he continued to fight cancer.
It emerged on 30 November that he had been admitted to the Albert Einstein Hospital with “general swelling” and was undergoing several tests for a more in-depth assessment of his health issues.
ESPN Brasil reported that the 82-year-old was having cardiac issues and his medical staff were concerned that his chemotherapy treatment was not having the expected results.
A medical report released on 21 December said Pele’s cancer had worsened. His daughter confirmed the family would spend Christmas in hospital with Pele after it emerged he required treatment for heart and kidney trouble.
More to follow