Pelé, the Brazilian king of soccer who won a record three World Cups and became one of the most commanding sports figures of the last century, died Thursday. He was 82.
“Everything we are is thanks to you. We love you endlessly,” Kely Nascimento wrote on Instagram. “Rest in peace.”
Albert Einstein Hospital, where Pelé was being treated, released a statement confirming the soccer star’s death from multiple organ failure. His agent Joe Fraga also confirmed it to CBS News Radio.
The standard-bearer of “the beautiful game” had undergone treatment for colon cancer since 2021.
Widely regarded as one of soccer’s greatest players, Pelé spent nearly two decades enchanting fans and dazzling opponents as the game’s most prolific scorer with Brazilian club Santos and the Brazil national team.
His grace, athleticism and mesmerizing moves transfixed players and fans. He orchestrated a fast, fluid style that revolutionized the sport — a samba-like flair that personified his country’s elegance on the field.
He carried Brazil to soccer’s heights and became a global ambassador for his sport in a journey that began on the streets of Sao Paulo state, where he would kick a sock stuffed with newspapers or rags.
In the conversation about soccer’s greatest players, only the late Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are mentioned alongside Pelé.
Different sources, counting different sets of games, list Pelé’s goal totals anywhere between 650 (league matches) and 1,281 (all senior matches, some against low-level competition.)
“Pelé is the greatest player in football history, and there will only be one Pelé in the world,” Ronaldo once said.