Pele, Brazil football legend and three-time World Cup winner, dies aged 82

The former striker had been battling cancer in Sao Paulo

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Brazilian football legend Pele has died at the age of 82 after a lengthy battle with cancer.

Pele, considered one of the greatest footballers of all time, was admitted to the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo on November 29, to re-evaluate his colon cancer treatment. He was later diagnosed with a respiratory infection, and was under “elevated care” related to “kidney and cardiac dysfunctions”.

His death was confirmed by his daughter and manager.

He was moved to palliative care after chemotherapy stopped having the expected results.

"Everything we are is because of you. We love you infinitely. Rest in peace," his daughter Kely Nascimento wrote on Instagram.

Pele - whose full name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento - had a tumour removed from his colon in September last year and had been receiving hospital treatment on a regular basis.

He passed away peacefully on Thursday, a statement posted to his social media accounts confirmed.

Pele "enchanted the world with his genius in sport, stopped a war, carried out social works all over the world and spread what he most believed to be the cure for all our problems: love," read a post on his Instagram account.

"His message today becomes a legacy for future generations."

The former striker, who played for Brazil clubs Santos and New York Cosmos, won three World Cups with Brazil in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

He burst on to the global scene as a 17-year-old at the 1958 World Cup, helping Brazil to the first of their record five successes.

Injury affected his contribution to the 1962 and 1966 finals, but he returned to lead Brazil to a third triumph in Mexico in 1970 as part of what is widely regarded as the greatest international team of all time.

Officially, Pele scored 757 goals in 831 games during a glittering career from 1957 to 1977, although club Santos claim his tally was closer to 1,000.

Tributes poured in for the football star just minutes after his death was confirmed.

"A mere goodbye to the eternal King Pele will never be enough to express the pain that the entire football world is currently embracing," Cristiano Ronaldo wrote on Instagram.

"An inspiration to so many millions, a reference yesterday, today and forever. The love you always showed me was reciprocated in every moment we shared even from distance. He will never be forgotten."

"The king of football has left us but his legacy will never forgotten," French striker Kylian Mbappe wrote on Twitter with a photo of the pair.

"Pele was one of the greatest, if not the greatest," wrote European Parliament President Roberta Metsola.

"He entertained billions, he introduced generations to the joys of football and showed the world there is no dream too big."

Former Fifa President Sepp Blatter said he was "immensely sad" to hear of his passing.

"The world mourns the greatest footballer in history and a wonderful personality. He celebrated the game like no other."

Pele’s global stardom saw him take on a lead role in the 1981 film Escape to Victory about Allied prisoners of war playing an exhibition football match against the Germans.

It also featured the likes of Hollywood A-listers Sylvester Stallone, Sir Michael Caine and Max Von Sydow as well as fellow players England captain Bobby Moore and Ossie Ardiles, the former Tottenham midfielder who was a World Cup winner with Argentina in 1978.

Ardiles posted a picture of him alongside Pele in the Allied team on Twitter. “The King of Kings has died. Extraordinary player. Unique. 3 times World Cup winner, more than a thousand goals,” he said.

“My idol when young. He made football the beautiful game and truly international. My time playing alongside him in Escape to Victory was a dream come true. RIP Pele.”

Fifa president Gianni Infantino paid a personal tribute to the unique talent of Pele who had “a magnetic presence and, when you were with him, the rest of the world stopped”.

Infantino added on: “His life is about more than football. He changed perceptions for the better in Brazil, in South America and across the world. His legacy is impossible to summarise in words.

“To his family and friends, to CBF, to Brazil and to all football fans who loved him so much, I express my sincere condolences.

“Today, we all mourn the loss of the physical presence of our dear Pele, but he achieved immortality a long time ago and therefore he will be with us for eternity.”

Updated: December 30, 2022, 8:25 AM