Brazilian football legend Pele, arguably the greatest player of all time, who died last evening at the age of 82 is fondly remembered for having coined the phrase – 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.
“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.”
Tarcisio Burgnich, the Italian arch-defender who had been commissioned to mark Pele, said: ‘Before the final I told myself he was just flesh and bones like the rest of us. I was wrong.’
Cruyff was moved to this tribute: ‘Pele is the only footballer who has surpassed the boundaries of logic.’
The Greatest also made sure that his unique talent was greatly rewarded. As well as accumulating 40 trophies with Santos, Brazil and at the tail-end of his career with New York Cosmos when he and Franz Beckenbauer went to kick-start soccer in America, along with all the individual player of the year, century and millennium awards, he piled up the sponsorship and marketing contracts.
The Brazilians who adored Garrincha tended to frown on Pele’s driven commercialism but he needed to fund a chequered domestic life and support at least five children by different mothers.
Michel Platini, when he was still a wondrous player in his own right and before he became what might be described most kindly as an eccentric president of UEFA, said: ‘There was Pele the footballer and there was Pele the man but when he played football Pele was God.’
While he was unfailingly courteous there was invariably purpose to his charm, with the door to Pele the human being usually remaining tight shut.
Tostao, his strike partner in that immortal 1970 team, observed: ‘He loves being Pele.’
One of the very few times he showed genuine warmth in my company was at a dinner in Rome the night before the 1990 World Cup Final. He arrived slightly late and when he saw Bobby Moore seated at the table his face lit up.
The great old foes – who had exchanged shirts and mutual admiration at the end of their epic duel in the Mexican sun – embraced once again. For several minutes. Then they sat reminiscing long into the small hours, to our fascination.
The mask was a smiling one but this was a rare occasion when it revealed his truth. Pele was profoundly sentimental about the game at which he was supreme.
He saw a number of big matches at Wembley but never played there. It was an omission he regretted.
So one afternoon during a visit to London – some years after his retirement in 1977 – he went quietly to the empty old stadium. In his now-customary suit and tie, he walked the length of the hallowed turf and gently rolled a ball into the net with his Gucci shoes.
Before him, 10 was just a number.
Here is the timeline of Pele’s legendary career:
Oct 23, 1940- Pele’s Birthdate.
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.
Sep 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.
Jun 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.
Mar 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.
Jul 18, 1971- Pele played his last international match against Yugoslavia
Jun 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.
Oct 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.
Dec 3, 1997- Honourary Knighthood
Pele was awarded an honourary knighthood from the Queen on December 3rd, 1997.
Aug 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 dies aged 82.
Love life :
But Pele’s total amount of children is adding up too and it has come with a little bit of controversy.
How many children does Pele have?
Pele has been married three times but admitted to letting his eyes wonder elsewhere during his Netflix documentary.
The Brazilian legend even revealed not knowing how many children he had at one point due to the number of affairs he had.
n February 1966, Pele got married to his first wife Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi and the pair had three children together – Kelly, Edinho and Jennifer.
However, after splitting up with Rosemeri, the goal-scoring machine had a fling with his housekeeper Anizia Machado which led to the birth of his daughter Sandra Machado in 1993.
But Pele refused to take a DNA test leaving Sandra no choice but to file a lawsuit for Pele to recognise her as her daughter as well as publishing a book titled “The Daughter Pele Never Wanted”.
Pele would go on to lose the lawsuit as DNA evidence showed that Sandra was his biological daughter. Four years later, Pele had another daughter, Flavia Kurtz with journalist Lenita Kurtz.
And then in 1994, Pele married psychologist and gospel singer, Assaria Lemos Seixas who was his second wife, and the ex-couple had twins Joshua and Celeste.
So in total, Pele has seven children.
Who is Pele married to now?
Pele is married to Marcia Cibele Aoki and the lovebirds tied the knot in 2016.
They do not have any children together as of all of Pele’s kids came before their relationship.
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