COLOMBO : Football has lost its king. Pelé, born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, passed away on December 29th in São Paulo, Brazil at 82 years old, losing a long battle against cancer that had spread to several organs in his body.
The only men’s football player to have won three FIFA World Cup titles (1958, 1962 and 1970), the Brazilian was one of the most prominent sporting figures of the 20th century. His talent turned the Brazilian Selecao and its yellow shirt into global brands.
An all-around footballer with a special talent, Pelé won fans across all continents of the world. He played a crucial role in the rise of football to the position of most popular sport on the planet.
Pelé was born in Tres Coracoes, in the state of Minas Gerais, on October 23 1940. He was named after the inventor of the light bulb, Thomas Edison, however when his birth was registered, the clerk removed the letter “i”, making his name Edson.
The nickname Pelé emerged when a young Edson couldn’t pronounce the name of goalkeeper Bilé, who played in his hometown. He would always say Pelé. At first, his teammates would make fun of the mispronunciation, without realising how iconic that nickname would become in the future.
FIFA World Cup 1958: the youngest-ever world champion
In 1956, he began playing for Santos, the team that launched him into stardom. In the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, he became the youngest-ever world champion at 17 years old, scoring in the final.
Pelé was also part of the team that won the World Cup in 1962, and became a two-time club world champion with Santos. He scored 77 goals for Brazil, a record he shares with Neymar. In 1970, he became the first – and still only – player to win three World Cup titles, as part of a squad regarded as one of the greatest teams in the history of sports.
In the late 1970s, Pelé played in the USA for New York Cosmos, before retiring in 1977. He continued to be involved in sport, working as a pundit on television and serving as Minister for Sports in Brazil between 1995 and 1998.
Over the past few years, Pelé fought a long battle with a cancer that was first detected in the colon and spread to several organs, including his liver and lung.
Pelé and the Olympic Games
The Brazilian legend never played in the Olympic Games, but in 1999 he was voted the Athlete of the Century by NOCs all over the world.
In the Closing Ceremony of London 2012, Pelé featured in the segment about the upcoming Games in Rio.
Months before the Opening Ceremony of Rio 2016, he received the Olympic Order from IOC President Thomas Bach, in Santos.
“Even if I was an Olympic gold medallist in fencing, my love for sport started with football. If I hadn’t become the president of the IOC, I would have missed the chance to hand in the Olympic Order to one of my sport heroes, Pelé, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, recognizing his sporting merit and his loyalty of the Olympic values”, said Thomas Bach during the ceremony in 2016.
Pelé also took part in the Torch Relay for Rio 2016, in Santos, where he lived until his last days.(Olypic.com)
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