Brazilian football icon Pele, considered one of the greatest players in football and whose on-pitch magic earned him popularity as a “beautiful game,” died after a year-long battle with cancer. died on thursday. His daughter confirmed the death on Instagram.
“We owe everything to you. We love you infinitely. Rest in peace,” Kelly Nascimento wrote.
Pele was 82 years old.
The Brazilian legend, whose real name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento, helped win the World Cup in 1958, 1962 and 1970, and remains the national team’s co-scoring leader with 77 goals in 92 appearances. increase.
Brazil’s current superstar Neymar equaled him for the 2022 Qatar World Cup, scoring 77 goals in 124 appearances.
Pele became the youngest goalscorer in a World Cup when he scored against Wales at the age of 17 years and 239 days in the 1958 tournament in Stockholm. His record still stands and to this day he is the only player under the age of 18 to score a goal in a World Cup.
He also helped Brazil win the tournament in Chile in 1962 and shined in the 1970 Mexico World Cup in England after being ruled out of the competition by injury four years later. I was.
In a tribute to Pele’s 80th birthday, Tarcisio Brunic, who was the Italian defender in that year’s final, told football’s governing body FIFA that he had played against the Brazilian star. .
“Before the game I said to myself, ‘He’s made of skin and bones like everyone else,'” he said. “But I was wrong.”
Pele’s name and dominance on the pitch have come to describe the sport itself.
North Americans perceive the game as “soccer” and most of the planet as “football”, but virtually everyone agrees that it is a “beautiful game”. “Ojogo Bonito” to Brazilians and Portuguese.
The exact origin of the phrase is debatable, but its popularity can be traced back to the 1977 biography “Pele, My Life and the Beautiful Game” by Pele and Robert L. Fish.
Born into poverty in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais on October 23, 1940, Pele honed his skills playing with grapefruit before signing for Brazilian team Santos at the age of 15.
He enjoyed great success with the team, winning more than 20 major titles before signing with the New York Cosmos in the fledgling North American Soccer League in 1975.
Pele and Cosmos played a key role in building the sport’s profile and popularity in the United States before ending their professional careers in 1977.
Led by aging stars such as Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinalia, the glamorous Cosmos won Soccer Bowl ’77, and in the process drew the largest crowd ever to see a football match in the United States. I was.
Pele’s Cosmos defeated Fort. Lauderdale his Strikers as he faces a playoff game in front of 77,691 fans at Giants Stadium in Rutherford, East New Jersey. It was the largest crowd ever at a NASL game.
Guinness World Records recognizes Pele as the most goals scored player in a given period, with 1,279 goals in 1,363 games between 7 September 1956 and 1 October 1977.
It was to his credit that Pele transcended the world of sports and became a recognizable figure even for those who don’t follow the game. He rubbed shoulders with boxer Muhammad Ali, Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger, pop artist Andy Warhol, and more to create his portrait.
“Pele was one of the few people who defied my theory. He got 15th-century fame instead of 15 minutes of fame,” said Warhol.
Pele also received invitations from Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan to visit the White House regularly.
In 1986, when Reagan invited Pele to a state dinner in honor of Brazilian President José Cerny, he said: But everyone knows Pele, so no introduction is needed. ”
After his football career ended, Pele appeared in several films, including Escape to Victory starring Sylvester Stallone and British actor Michael Caine, as well as several documentaries about his life. .
However, he was perhaps best known for being an ambassador to the United Nations, campaigning against the aggressive marketing of baby formula, environmental issues, and more.
In 1999, he was named one of Time magazine’s “100 People of the Century”.
A lifelong supporter of various charities, he founded the Pele Foundation in 2018 to help needy children.
The three-time married Pele confessed in the 2021 Netflix documentary named after him that he has had so many affairs that he doesn’t even know how many children he has.
His seven known descendants include Sandra Machado, who refused to admit even after a court-ordered DNA test proved she was his daughter. Before he died at the age of 42, he went on to write a book, The Daughter the King Didn’t Want.
Five other children — Kelly, 55. Edinho, 51 years old. Jennifer, 43 years old. Twins Joshua and Celeste, 25, were born from her two marriages, her first to Rose Meridos her Wraith Chorbi and Assyria Lemos her Seishas. His daughter Flavia Kurz, 53, was born in 1968 to Renita Kurz.
In 2016, Pele married his third wife, Marcia Cibelle Aoki, in what he described on social media as “definite love.”
Pele underwent surgery to remove a colon tumor in September 2021 and has since checked in monthly at the Albert Einstein Hospital in São Paulo, Brazil.
He was admitted to the hospital late last month to regulate his medication for an infectious disease, the hospital said.
This story was first published in NBCNews.com.
This article originally appeared on TODAY.com.