The soccer world almost came to an abrupt end on December 29, 2022 when Brazilian football legend Pele, arguably the greatest player of all time, breathed his last. He was aged 82.
Pele masterminded the “beautiful game,” and he is the only footballer in history to win three World Cups — 1958, 1962, and 1970. He was named athlete of the century by the International Olympic Committee in 1999.
Nicknamed “O Rei” (The King), he scored 1,281 goals in 1363 games for club and country during his career, ended his playing days at New York Cosmos, and retired from football in 1977.
“In music there is Beethoven and the rest. In football, there is Pele and the rest,” he said in 2000.
Pele had been in increasingly fragile health, battling kidney problems and colon cancer — undergoing surgery for the latter in September 2021, followed by chemotherapy.
Pele had surgery to remove a tumour from his colon in September 2021 at the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo, after the tumour was detected in routine tests. He was readmitted to hospital in late November 2022.
“Everything we are is thanks to you. We love you infinitely. Rest in peace,” daughter Kely Nascimento wrote on Instagram.
Pele’s Twitter account also posted: “Inspiration and love marked the journey of King Pele, who peacefully passed away today. Love, love and love, forever.”
See below timeline of Pele’s legendary career:
October 23, 1940 – Pele’s Birthdate
Pele, born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, to a poor family in Sao Paulo, won the 958, 1962, and 1970 World Cups with Brazil.
Pele is Brazil’s joint all-time top scorer with 77 goals in 92 matches.
Born October 23, 1940, in the southeastern city of Tres Coracoes, Edson Arantes do Nascimento — Pele’s real name — grew up selling peanuts on the street to help his impoverished family get by.
His parents named him after famed American inventor Thomas Edison.
But he was soon given the nickname Pele, for his mispronunciation of Bile, the name of a goalkeeper at Vasco de Sao Lourenco, where his footballer father once played.
September 7, 1956 – Pele joins Santos football team and begins his professional football career
Pele helped his hometown side, Santos to two Copa Libertadores titles and six Brazilian league crowns during a glittering 18-year spell with the club. He also holds the club’s all-time goal record.
Pele scored 12 goals in 14 World Cup appearances and also provided 10 assists – the most by any player in the history of the competition.
He led the club to a flurry of titles, including back-to-back Intercontinental Cups, against Benfica in 1962 and AC Milan in 1963.
June 19, 1958 – Pele became the youngest player in a world cup final, leading Brazil to victory
He became an icon of the game after winning the World Cup in 1958 as a 17-year-old, netting twice in the final to defeat hosts Sweden, 5-2. He remains the youngest player to have netted a goal at the tournament. He became famous for wearing his number 10 shirt in this world cup.
March 5, 1961- Pele scores the ‘Gol de Placa’
Pele scored the ‘Gol de Placa’- which means a goal worthy of a plaque while playing for Santos against Fluminense, the goal was so amazing, they made a plaque to celebrate what they call the most beautiful goal in the history of soccer. He was declared a national treasure by Brazil’s president. He epitomized the sublime style of play called “samba football” in Brazil
1962 – Pele leads Brazil to second World Cup victory
Wealthy European clubs wanted to buy him on their team, however, he was considered a national treasure so he wasn’t able to leave. He was chosen to play for Brazil and Brazil won the 1962 World Cup.
Nov 19, 1969 – 1000th Goal
Pele scored his 1000th total goal during a match against Vasco Da Gama, this goal is known as O Milesimo in English which means the thousandth.
1970 – Pele returns, leads Brazil to third World Cup victory
Brazil made a triumphant comeback in 1970 after England won in 1966 and it proved to be Pele’s last-ever world cup. Making him the only player to win three world cup titles.
July 18, 1971 – Pele played his last international match against Yugoslavia
June 10, 1975 – Pele joins the New York Cosmos
Pele joined the New York Cosmos after retiring from Brazilian club football, Santos. He was credited with making soccer popular in North America playing alongside German legend Franz Beckenbauer and fellow 1970 World Cup winner Carlos Alberto.
October 1, 1977- Pele retires from football
Pele retired from football on October the 1st 1977 when he played his final game: Cosmos v Santos in New York. He played the first half for Cosmos and the second half for his old team Santos. After his retirement, he became a worldwide ambassador for football.
Pele was also a goodwill ambassador- United Nations ambassador for ecology and the environment. He even starred as an actor, with his most famous film being ‘Escape for victory.’
May 18, 1978 – International Peace Award
Pele was awarded the International Peace Award for all his work with UNICEF. UNICEF helps children all over the world.
1994 – Pele was named Brazil’s Extraordinary Minister for Sport
December 3, 1997- Honourary Knighthood
Pele was awarded an honourary knighthood from the Queen on December 3rd, 1997.
August 9, 2012- Honourary Degree
Pele was awarded an honourary degree from the University of Edinburgh.
2013 – Pele was awarded the FIFA Ballon d’Or Prix d’Honneur in recognition of his career and achievements
2020 – Pele was named in the Ballon d’Or Dream Team, a greatest of all-time XI
December 29, 2022- Pele died aged 82