(NEW YORK) — Brazilian soccer legend Pelé, a three-time World Cup champion who’s largely considered to be one of the best players ever, has died. He was 82 years old.
His daughter, Kely, confirmed his death on social media.
“All that we are is thanks to you,” she wrote. “We love you forever. Rest in peace.”
Brazil has planned 48 hours of national mourning. Pele is expected to be buried in Santos, southeast of Sao Paulo, where he played club soccer from 1956 to 1974.
Pelé had been in and out of the hospital over the past year as he fought colon cancer. In November, Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo announced that his cancer had advanced and that he was in palliative care.
Albert Einstein Hospital confirmed Pelé died at 3:27 p.m. local time from multiple organ failure as a result of colon cancer.
The soccer star, whose real name was Edson Arantes do Nascimento, was hospitalized in December 2021 shortly after undergoing chemotherapy to treat a reported colon tumor. He had posted on Instagram that he was recovering.
Over the past year, Pelé had dismissed fears over his health and continued to thank fans for their support.
“Dear friends, it’s been a while since we talked about this. I want to let you know that I’m fine. I feel better every day. I don’t think even the mask for my protection can hide my happiness. Thank you very much to all of you who send me good energy daily,” he wrote in a November 2021 post on Instagram.
Named FIFA co-Player of the Century in 1999 along with Diego Maradona of Argentina, Pelé spent his retirement as a global ambassador for the sport and devoted to other humanitarian causes. In 2020, when Maradona died, Pelé remarked, “One day, I hope we can play football together in the sky.”
Pelé was born on Oct. 23, 1940, in the town of Tres Coracoes in the southern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. His parents named him after U.S. inventor Thomas Edison. Pelé’s father, João Ramos do Nascimento, nicknamed Dondinho, was also a professional soccer player.
The young Edson received the nickname Pelé in school when schoolmates mocked his pronunciation of the popular Brazilian goalkeeper Bilé, he explained in a 2016 column for The Players’ Tribune.
He began playing at 13 with a youth team in Bauru. He was scouted by the Brazilian club Santos at 15 and began playing professionally with the team.
At just 17, he emerged as a superstar with his performance during Brazil’s victorious 1958 World Cup, and he played his entire career in Brazil with Santos.
Pelé won two additional World Cup titles — in 1962 and 1970 — before ending his storied career with the New York Cosmos in 1977.
His last game on Oct. 1, 1977, an exhibition game between the Cosmos and Santos, was played before a sellout crowd at Giants Stadium. The game was televised on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.”
He later starred in John Huston’s 1981 World War II sports film “Escape to Victory” alongside Sylvester Stallone and Michael Caine.
A biopic about his life, “Pele: Birth of a Legend,” was released in 2016.
Pelé is largely credited for sparking interest in the game in the United States during the 1970s, a legacy that lives on to this day.
He is survived by wife Marcia Aoki, as well as seven children: Brazilian soccer coach and former player Edson Cholbi do Nascimento, better known as Edinho; daughter Sandra Regina Machado Arantes do Nascimento; soccer player Joshua Nascimento; son Celeste Arantes do Nascimento; and three other daughters, Kely Cristina Nascimento, Flávia Christina Kurtz Nascimento and Jennifer Nascimento.
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