The announcement that Brazilian, and world, football legend, Pele has died, has left a numbness that will be felt by people – in and out of the game – for generations to come.

Credited with scoring a world record 1,281 goals in 1,363 appearances during a 21-year career, including 77 goals in 92 matches for his country, he will always be ‘the greatest’, because he was the ‘first’.


Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento (only 50-years after slavery was abolished in Brazil), he first came to international recognition when, at just 17-years-old, Pele, who’s the only player to win the World Cup three times, having lifted the trophy in 1958, 1962 and 1970, had been suffering with kidney and prostate problems in recent years.

In 2021, he underwent surgery to remove a tumour from his colon in September 2021 at the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo, after the tumour was detected in routine tests, whilst, a year later, he was readmitted to hospital. They confirmed that Pele died "due to the failure of multiple organs, a result of the progression of colon cancer associated with his previous clinical condition".

In a statement, the Brazilian Football Confederation said: "Pele was much more than the greatest sportsperson of all time.

"Our king of football was the greatest exponent of a victorious Brazil, who was never afraid when faced with difficulty. He promised his father a World Cup and he presented us with three.

"The King gave us a new Brazil and we are so thankful for his legacy. Thank you, Pele!"

His daughter Kely Nascimento has kept fans updated on her father's condition with regular social media updates from hospital. Earlier she posted a picture of what appeared to be Pele's family's hands on his body in hospital and wrote: "Everything we are, is thanks to you. We love you infinitely. Rest In Peace."

Having made his debut for Santos in 1956 at the age of 15, he scored in a 7-1 win over Corinthians, he made his debut for Brazil in 1957 before going into the 1958 World Cup, in Sweden. And it was there that, despite the very limited levels of international broadcasting – TV, radio, and print – the world came to know of ‘PELE!’

Forcing his way into the starting line-up by the knockout stages, he scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Wales in the quarterfinals, a hat-trick against France in the semi-final and two in a 5-2 win over the hosts in the final. Four years later, Pele played in two of Brazil's matches at the 1962 World Cup in Chile but was injured in the game against Czechoslovakia.

It was the first major injury of his career, and it forced him to sit out the rest of the tournament. But, despite his loss, Brazil retained the cup, and Pelé claimed a second winner's medal.

Come 1966, the world, and other country’s players knew about Pele, and he would be virtually kicked out of the competition, in England, as Europe’s ‘Brazil’, Portugal’s players – as with Hungary and Bulgaria - kicked ‘lumps’ out of the maestro, and his country out of the World Cup. Internationally, it was a reluctant Edson Arantes do Nascimento who would play in what would be his last World Cup for his country.

For many, in and out of the game, it would be his last World Cup. But, during 1972, as part of the Santos team, he appeared in friendly matches against teams including Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Coventry City.

For him, and them (Brazil), it was the birth of the true ‘beautiful game,’ as they gloriously ‘sambaed’ their way to what would be theirs, and his, third triumph. And beyond that, he would transcend the game and his name when, as football’s first real superstar, he helped to launch football in the ‘baron wilderness’ that was then the USA where, playing alongside German legend Franz Beckenbauer and fellow 1970 World Cup winner Carlos Alberto, he was part of a star-studded New York Cosmos side.

He then went on to play prisoner of war, Corporal Luis Fernandez, alongside Hollywood greats, Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine and Max von Sydow in the film ‘Escape To Victory’.

Following news of his death, fellow-World Cup winner, Paris SGM and France striker, Kylian Mbappé, wrote on Twitter: ‘The king of football has left us but his legacy will never be forgotten. RIP KING …’

Sir Geoff Hurst wrote: ‘I have so many memories of Pele, without doubt the best footballer I ever played against (with Bobby Moore being the best footballer I ever played alongside). For me Pele remains the greatest of all time and I was proud to be on the pitch with him. RIP Pele and thank you.’

For England record-breaking goal scorer, and Match Of The Day presenter, Gary Linearker wrote: ‘Pele has died. The most divine of footballers and joyous of men. He played a game only a few chosen ones have come close to. 3 times he lifted the most coveted gold trophy in that beautiful yellow shirt. He may have left us but he’ll always have footballing immortality. RIP Pele.’

His moments of magic spanned eras and defined his history – and the sport!

A legend forever, he was 82.