Brazilian football legend Pelé, who won a record three World Cups, dies at 82

© Frank Fife, AFP

More than six decades after he first wowed the world on the football pitch, Pelé is no more. The superstar Brazil nicknamed "O Rei" – the King – and winner of three World Cups died on Thursday at the age of 82 after a battle with colon cancer. His death caps a storied life as one of the greatest footballers the game has ever known.

Pelé’s daughter Kely Nascimento announced his death on Instagram. “We love you infinitely, rest in peace,” she wrote. His agent, Joe Fraga, confirmed his death.

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

“Inspiration and love marked the journey of King Pelé, who peacefully passed away today,” read his official Instagram account.

Edson Arantes do Nascimento was born to a poor family in Três Corações in southeastern Brazil on October 23, 1940. Nicknamed Pelé as a schoolboy, his first football was reportedly a sock stuffed with rags. The first man to have ever scored 1,000 career goals, Pelé's dizzying exploits on the pitch brought him to 1,281 goals in 1,362 matches between 1956 and 1977 – including more than 1,000 for fabled Santos FC.

It was wearing that club's famous white shirt that Pelé achieved some of his most glittering successes, not least winning two Copa Libertadores (1961, 1962) and a Recopa Sudamericana (1968).

But Pelé, who also won 11 regional championships, was far more than just a club player. Selected 92 times by his country, Pelé's international play was, too, the stuff of legend. He won three World Cups with Brazil (1958, 1962 and 1970) – a feat that remains his alone.


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