Pele: World reacts to death of Brazilian football great

Tributes flood in from around the globe for three-time World Cup winner

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Global figures from across the sporting world have paid tribute to football star Pele, who passed away in Sao Paulo on Thursday following a lengthy battle with cancer.

The sporting star — who won three World Cups — was an international football symbol, beloved by millions around the globe.

A tweet from the Brazilian Football Federation read simply “King Pele”, accompanied by three crown emojis.

Brazil and Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar said that his countryman had “transformed football into an art”.

“Before Pele, '10' was just a number,” the heir to Pele's famed jersey number wrote on Instagram, alongside two pictures of himself with the late legend.

“I would say that before Pele, football was just a sport. He transformed football into an art, into entertainment … Football and Brazil gained status thanks to the king. He has gone, but his magic will remain. Pele is eternal!”

French 2022 World Cup sensation Kylian Mbappe, who in 2018 won the World Cup as a teenager, said that Pele's legacy “will never be forgotten”.

Meanwhile, Argentine world-renowned star Lionel Messi posted a picture on Instagram of him with Pele with the message: “Rest in peace, Pele.”

Cristiano Ronaldo posted a picture of him receiving an award from Pele and wrote: “My deepest condolences to all of Brazil, and in particular to the family of Mr Edson Arantes do Nascimento.

“A mere 'goodbye' to the eternal King Pele will never be enough to express the pain that currently embraces the entire world of football.”

He added: “An inspiration for so many millions, a reference from yesterday, today, forever. The affection he always showed for me was reciprocal in every moment we shared, even from a distance.

“He will never be forgotten and his memory will live on forever in each of us football lovers. Rest in peace, King Pele.”

Ronaldo, one of Brazil's finest strikers and winner of the 2022 World Cup, shared an emotional tribute. "Unique. Genius. Technical. Creative. Perfect. Unequalled. Where Pele has gone, he has stayed. Never having left the top, he leaves us today," he said.

"The king of football - one and only. The greatest of all time. What a privilege to come after you, my friend. Your talent is a school every player should go through.

"His legacy transcends generations. And that's how you'll live on. Today and always, we will celebrate you. Thank you, Pele. Rest in peace."

Former Brazil captain Cafu, who won two World Cups, said Pele's legacy will live forever. "Pele dies, this news is not accurate... Pele will never die. Pele will never leave us. Pele will never cease to exist. Pele is eternal, Pele is King, Pele is unique... he just went to rest a little bit."

Former England World Cup winner Geoff Hurst hailed Pele as the “greatest of all time”.

Hurst played against Pele in the 1970 World Cup, with Brazil winning a group stage match between the two countries 1-0, and rated the forward as the best he ever faced.

The Football Association, which lit up the Wembley arch in Brazil's colours as a tribute, said: “Everyone who loves football, loves Pele.”

Manchester City's Norwegian striker paid his own tribute by writing on Twitter: "Everything you see any player doing, Pelé did it first. RIP"

Former Fifa president Sepp Blatter called Pele the “greatest footballer in history”.

Blatter, 86, who led world football's governing body from 1998 to 2015, said he was “immensely sad” to learn of Pele's death.

Football clubs from around the world have been sharing their own tributes to Pele. Manchester United wrote on social media: "Rest in peace, Pele. Thank you for the joy you brought to football fans around the world."

Jamaican former sprinter Usain Bolt, an eight-time Olympic gold medallist, wrote on Twitter: “A sporting legend. Rest in peace, King Pele.”

Leading figures from the cricket world have also paid their respects to Pele, with Indian batting great Sachin Tendulkar writing on Twitter: "A great loss to not just football but to the whole world of sports. There will never be another! Your legacy will live on forever. Rest in Peace Pele!"

Former India head coach Ravi Shastri posted on Twitter: "Irreplaceable loss to the sporting world.The heartbeat of football. A magician who mesmerized and inspired generations! A proper Legend #Pele RIP King."

Meanwhile, Yuvraj Singh, one of India's greatest batters, wrote: "Thank you for everything #Legend. You will be missed forever. A three time world-cup winning footballer and a timeless beauty on the field. You were the reason millions started playing the game. Rest in peace the #GOAT."

But it was not only athletes who expressed their admiration for the late player. Politicians and global leaders shared their tributes, including former President of the United States Barack Obama, who wrote: "Pelé was one of the greatest to ever play the beautiful game. And as one of the most recognizable athletes in the world, he understood the power of sports to bring people together. Our thoughts are with his family and everyone who loved and admired him."

Current US President Joe Biden tweeted: "For a sport that brings the world together like no other, Pele's rise from humble beginnings to soccer legend is a story of what is possible."

Leaders from Brazil also posted their tributes, with president Jair Bolsonaro saying: "Sorrow for the passing of a man who through football took the name of Brazil to the world. He turned football into art and joy."

And president-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said: "I had the privilege that younger Brazilians didn't have: I saw Pele play, live, at Pacaembu and Morumbi. Play, no. I saw Pele give a show. Because when he got the ball he always did something special, which often ended up in a goal."

Updated: December 30, 2022, 11:48 AM
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