Pele, the “King of Football” breathed his last on Thursday, December 29, 2022, at age 82. The World mourns for one of the greatest of all time, the Brazilian legend who defined the sport and inspired generations.
Brazil’s government declared three days of mourning. Spain’s La Liga games mourned a minute’s silence. The Wembley Stadium of England lit up with Brazil colors and Rio’s “Christ the Redeemer” statue was lit up with yellow and green.
Football was just a game before Pele. The three-time World Cup champion Pele survived his childhood poverty to rule the World, with his magic and mesmerizing moves, and made football “The Beautiful Game”.
The Sport Pays Tribute to Pele
All the great footballing stars pay tribute to the King of Football. Neymar, Ronaldo, Messi, Mbappe, and so many others, wrote on their social media accounts to pay tribute to Pele.
“Before Pele, 10 was just a number. Before Pele football was just a sport, wrote Neymar on his Instagram. “Pele changed it all. He turned football into art, into entertainment. He gave a voice to the poor, to the black people, and especially, he gave visibility to Brazil.”
The 2002 World Cup-winning Brazil striker Ronaldo wrote, “The world mourns. The sadness of farewell mixed with the immense pride of written history.”
FIFA President Gianni Infantino recalled Pele’s iconic moments in a lengthy post of tribute. He recalled the 17-year-old Pele, who scored a goal in the 1958 World Cup Final. And the most iconic 1970 World Cup celebration.
Pele’s Career Overview
Pele (1940-2022) started playing football for the Brazilian club Santos at the age of 15. He played international football for Brazil at 16 years old.
He is the all-time top scorer for Santos, with 643 goals in 659 games. Pele scored 77 goals in 92 games for Brazil, the joint all-time top scorer with Neymar Jr.
Pele won three World Cup Tournaments: 1958, 1962, and 1970, the only player to win three to date. At age 17, he scored a goal in the 1958 World Cup final. He was nicknamed O Rei (The King) after the world cup.
In the 1970 World Cup, Brazil beat Italy by 4-1 in the Final. Pele scored the opener and provided two assists in that game. He was named the Player of the Tournament.
Italian defender Burgnich, who was in charge of marking Pele, quoted, “I told myself before the game, he’s made of skin and bones just like everyone else — but I was wrong.”
In 1999, Pele was named the Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee. His 1,279 goals in 1,363 games, which includes friendlies, is recognized as a Guinness World Record.