CAUSE OF DEATH: Brazil's legendary football player, Pele, joins Diego Maradona in land of the dead after battling with cancer KossyDerrickBlog KossyDerrickEnt

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Thursday, December 29, 2022

CAUSE OF DEATH: Brazil's legendary football player, Pele, joins Diego Maradona in land of the dead after battling with cancer

Pelé, the Brazilian king of soccer who won a record three World Cups and became one of the most commanding sports figures of the last century, died Thursday. He was 82.

The standard-bearer of “the beautiful game” had undergone treatment for colon cancer since 2021. He had been hospitalized for the last month with multiple ailments.

His agent Joe Fraga confirmed his death. Widely regarded as one of soccer’s greatest players, Pelé spent nearly two decades enchanting fans and dazzling opponents as the game’s most prolific scorer with Brazilian club Santos and the Brazil national team.

His grace, athleticism and mesmerizing moves transfixed players and fans. He orchestrated a fast, fluid style that revolutionized the sport — a samba-like flair that personified his country’s elegance on the field.

He carried Brazil to soccer’s heights and became a global ambassador for his sport in a journey that began on the streets of Sao Paulo state, where he would kick a sock stuffed with newspapers or rags.

In the conversation about soccer’s greatest players, only the late Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are mentioned alongside Pelé.

Different sources, counting different sets of games, list Pelé’s goal totals anywhere between 650 (league matches) and 1,281 (all senior matches, some against low-level competition.)

The player who would be dubbed “The King” was introduced to the world at 17 at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, the youngest player ever at the tournament. He was carried off the field on teammates’ shoulders after scoring two goals in Brazil’s 5-2 victory over the host country in the final.

Injury limited him to just two games when Brazil retained the world title in 1962, but Pelé was the emblem of his country’s World Cup triumph of 1970 in Mexico. He scored in the final and set up Carlos Alberto with a nonchalant pass for the last goal in a 4-1 victory over Italy.

The image of Pelé in a bright, yellow Brazil jersey, with the No. 10 stamped on the back, remains alive with soccer fans everywhere. As does his trademark goal celebration -- a leap with a right fist thrust high above his head.

Pelé’s fame was such that in 1967 factions of a civil war in Nigeria agreed to a brief cease-fire so he could play an exhibition match in the country. He was knighted by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in 1997. When he visited Washington to help popularize the game in North America, it was the U.S. president who stuck out his hand first.

“My name is Ronald Reagan, I’m the president of the United States of America,” the host said to his visitor. “But you don’t need to introduce yourself because everyone knows who Pelé is.”

Pelé was Brazil’s first modern Black national hero but rarely spoke about racism in a country where the rich and powerful tend to hail from the white minority.

Opposing fans taunted Pelé with monkey chants at home and all over the world.

“He said that he would never play if he had to stop every time he heard those chants,” said Angelica Basthi, one of Pelé’s biographers. “He is key for Black people’s pride in Brazil, but never wanted to be a flagbearer.”

A medical report just before Christmas showed that he needed care for cardiac and renal dysfunction, having been battling colon cancer since September 2021.

His daughter Kely Nascimento paid tribute to her father on Instagram: "We are thanks to you. We love you infinitely. Rest in peace."

Pele - originally named Edson Arantes do Nascimento - began playing for Santos at the age of 15 and the Brazilian national team a year later, bursting onto the world football scene as a 17-year-old in the 1958 World Cup.

During his international career, he won three World Cups - in 1958, 1962 and 1970 - the only player to achieve this.

His role in Brazil's third victory, in Mexico in 1970, has gone down in football folklore, as he played a key role in arguably the sport's greatest ever international team.

His glittering 20-year career from 1957 to 1977 saw him score 757 goals in 831 games, although Santos claim his tally was closer to 1,000.

During the tournament, ex-Manchester City boss Malcolm Allison, working as a TV summariser, asked: "How do you spell Pele?" Counterpart Pat Crerand responded: "Easy: G.O.D."

His 1970 teammate Tostao remarked: "Pele was the greatest – he was simply flawless. And off the pitch he is always smiling and upbeat. You never see him bad-tempered. He loves being Pele.” Sir Bobby Charlton, part of the England side beaten 1-0 in the group stage of that tournament by Brazil, remarked later in life: “I sometimes feel as though football was invented for this magical player.”

He made his international debut against Argentina at the Maracana, where Brazil lost 2-1.

Their goal was scored by a 16-year-old Pele, making him the youngest player to score in an international.

His hopes of playing for Brazil in the 1958 World Cup seemed to have been dashed when he suffered a knee injury.

But his team-mates pressured the management to select him and he made his World Cup debut against the USSR. A year later, he was selected for the Santos senior team and scored the first of his many career goals in his opening match.

He quickly earned a starting place in the side and in his first year became the league's top scorer.

Just 10 months after signing as a professional, Pele was called up by the Brazilian national team. He began playing for a number of local amateur teams when he was in his teens.

Indoor football had just started to become popular in the area, and the young Pele relished the change of playing surface.

"I took to it like a fish to water," he later said. "It's a lot quicker than football on grass - you have to think really quickly."

He also led Bauru Athletic Club juniors to three state youth championships, establishing himself as a bright talent.

In 1956, his coach, Waldemar de Brito, took him to the port city of Santos to try out for Santos FC, a professional team.De Brito was already convinced of his protégé's abilities, boasting to the Santos directors that Pele would be the best footballer in the world.

Pele more than lived up to the boast, impressing Santos who offered him a contract in June 1956. He was just 15 years old.

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.

There was to be disappointment in the 1962 World Cup, however, when an injury in an early game sidelined Pele for the rest of the tournament.

That did not stop a rush of wealthy clubs, including Manchester United and Real Madrid, trying to sign the man who was already touted as the greatest footballer in the world.

Alarmed at the thought of their star going overseas, the Brazilian government declared him a "national treasure" to prevent him being transferred.

The 1966 World Cup was a huge disappointment for Pele and Brazil. Pele became a target and suffered considerable fouling, particularly in the games against Portugal and Bulgaria.

Brazil failed to progress beyond the first round, and Pele's injuries from the tackles he had endured meant he could not play at his best.

Back home, Santos were in decline and Pele began to make less of a contribution to his side.

In 1969, Pele was approaching 30, and reluctant to commit himself to playing for Brazil in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.

He had also had to suffer an investigation by his country's military dictatorship who suspected him of left-wing sympathies.

In the end, he scored four goals in what was to be his last appearance at a World Cup, as part of a Brazilian side considered to be the greatest team in history.

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