(Reuters) – Magical Brazilian soccer star Pele, who went from barefoot poverty to one of the greatest and most famous athletes in modern history, has died at the age of 82, his daughter says said on Instagram on Thursday.
He had been in and out of the hospital for several months after a tumor was found in his colon.
Pele, whose real name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento, has scored a world record 1,281 goals and is the only player to win the World Cup three times.
With his sublime skill and charming smile, he has helped make football the most popular sport in the world, attracting popes, presidents and Hollywood stars during his 70-year career as a player and ambassador for the sport. Did.
Born October 23, 1940, in the small town of Torres Corazós, or “Three Hearts”, in the state of Minas Gerais, Edson Arantes do Nascimento learned the game from his father. He was a semi-professional player, but his knee injury derailed his promising career.
Some aspects of his youth are obscured by mythology, including the origin of his famous nickname. Children began comparing him to the local player “Bile”.
Whatever the truth, he immediately charmed scouts not as a goalkeeper, but as an attacking forward – prototype number 10.
He was respected for his breadth of talent and ever since then he has been a player who could do it all. With both feet, he had tremendous pace and stamina, able to head, pass, tackle and, of course, score. Goal.
He joined Santos at the age of 15 and transformed the small seaside club into one of the most famous clubs in football.
In his 18 years with the illustrious club, he has won all the honors of Brazilian football, as well as two Copa Libertadores (the South American equivalent of the Champions League) and two Intercontinental Cups (the best teams in Europe and the South). Annual Tournament held in between) won. America.
His talents were quickly recognized by the national team, and he was selected to represent Brazil in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, but a team psychologist called the 17-year-old “clearly childish”. , advised not to use him.
Pele scored a hat-trick in the semi-final half against France and scored two more goals in the final against the host Swedish team, helping Brazil to its first-ever championship.
The injury kept him out of all but two matches in the 1962 Cup, which Brazil won. At his 1970 tournament in Mexico, Pele, now at full maturity, at the age of 29, won his third title with a Brazilian side that included other stars such as Carlos Alberto Torres and Tostán. won and is considered by many to be the best team. ever.
Tarcisio Brunic, the Italian defender who marked Pele in the 1970 final, said, “Before the game, I said to myself, ‘He’s made of skin and bones like everyone else.
“But I was wrong.”
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Pele first retired in 1974, but after realizing that unwise investments had bankrupted him, the following year he accepted an offer to play in the fledgling North American soccer league for a then-amazing $1 million a year. accepted.
Pele’s charisma captivated even die-hard New Yorkers. He has a celebrity hangout and has even shared a table with Mick his Jaguar, Rod he Stewart and Andy He Warhol at the famous Studio 54 nightclub.
“Pele was one of the few who defied my theory. Instead of 15 minutes of fame, he will have 15th century fame,” said the artist.
Even in such companies, Pele stayed away from alcohol and drugs, saying she needed to protect her body and be a role model for her children.
However, he admitted other “weaknesses”. His two divorces, numerous cheatings, his two children he admitted to fathering outside of marriage, the squeaky-clean corporate pitchman, who prefers to be called Edson. That’s fueled perceptions of the gap between the elusive and the real person.
On the field, Pele led the New York Cosmos to a league championship in 1977, attracting millions of fans to a sport previously considered inaccessible and European.
Years later, when the United States won the bid to host the 1994 World Cup, the United States Soccer Federation president called Pele the “most important” reason.
Pele’s 1,281 goals in 1,366 games tallied by FIFA’s website is a staggering 0.94 per game. Some of them played in friendly matches or as part of military service, but in official tournaments he played 812 games and scored 757 goals.
Pele has struggled with a string of health issues over the last few years, including hip surgery. Although he made fewer public appearances, he remained active on social media.
Pele is left with six known children. A seventh person he didn’t recognize as his for years died of cancer in 2006.
Reporting by Andrew Downey, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Hugh Lawson
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