Pelé, the Brazilian soccer legend who set a record by winning three World Cups, passed away on Thursday. Pelé was one of the most influential athletes of the 20th century. He was 82.
The representative of “the beautiful game” had been receiving colon cancer therapy since 2021. According to the hospital where he had spent the previous month receiving treatment for the cancer, he passed away from multiple organ failure.
Football and Brazil elevated their standing thanks to the King! He is gone, but his magic will endure. Pelé is eternal!– Neymar
His casket was to be carried through the streets of Santos, the coastal city where his illustrious career began before burial. The funeral was scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
One of soccer’s all-time greats, Pelé spent nearly two decades thrilling supporters and stunning rivals as the sport’s leading scorer for Brazilian club Santos and the Brazil national team. Players and spectators were mesmerized by his grace, athleticism, and captivating maneuvers. He orchestrated a quick, flowing style that transformed the game, personifying his nation’s grace on the field with a samba-like flair.
In a career that started on the streets of Sao Paulo state, where he would kick a sock filled with newspapers or rags, he led Brazil to the pinnacles of soccer and developed into a global ambassador for his sport. Only the late Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo are listed with Pelé when discussing the greatest soccer players.
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Let’s get to know more about his memorable international career!
Pelé’s International Career.
On July 7, 1957, at the Maracan, Pelé played in his first international game against Argentina, which Brazil lost 2-1. At 16 years and 9 months old, he made his international debut for Brazil in that game, and he continues to hold the record for the nation’s youngest goal scorer.
1958 World Cup.
When Pelé returned from the treatment room after being sidelined by a knee ailment when he first came in Sweden, his teammates requested that he be chosen. His debut game was the third match of the 1958 FIFA World Cup’s first round against the USSR, where he assisted Vavá’s second goal.
He was the youngest player ever to compete in the World Cup at the time. Brazil was up 2-1 at the half against France in the semifinal, and Pelé then scored a hat-trick, becoming the youngest player in World Cup history to do so.
At 17 years and 249 days old, Pelé made World Cup history on June 29, 1958, when he played in the contest as the youngest player ever. In the final, he scored twice as Brazil defeated Sweden 5-2 in the nation’s capital of Stockholm. Brazil took the lead after Vavá scored two goals and Pelé hit the post. One of the best goals in World Cup history was Pelé’s opening strike, which he scored by flicking the ball over a defender and volleying into the far corner of the goal.
After Pelé’s second goal, Swedish midfielder Sigvard Parling would remark, “When Pelé scored the fifth goal in that Final, I have to be honest and say I felt like applauding.” Pelé collapsed on the field after the game and was resuscitate by Garrincha. After he had recovered, he was moved by the triumph to cry as he was being praised by his comrades.
With six goals in four games played, he finished the tournament tied for second place behind record-breaker Just Fontaine and was voted the competition’s best young player. As Barney Ronay noted, “With nothing but talent to guide him, the boy from Minas Gerais became the first black global sporting superstar, and a source of genuine uplift and inspiration.” His influence was perhaps greater off the field.
The first time Pelé wore the number 10 on his shirt was during the 1958 World Cup. The mishap was the result of poor planning on the part of the Brazilian Federation officials, who neglected to assign player shirts with numbers, leaving it to FIFA to select the number 10 shirt for Pelé, who was filling in for another player at the time.
Pelé was named the biggest discovery of the 1958 World Cup by the media, and he was also awarded the Silver Ball as the second-best player of the competition, behind Didi.
1959 South American Championship.
In the South American Championship, Pelé also participated. He was awarded the best player of the 1959 competition and led the scoring with eight goals as Brazil finished second despite going undefeated. He scored in five of Brazil’s six games, including a hat-trick against Paraguay and two goals against Chile.
1962 World Cup.
Pelé was regarded as the best player in the world at the commencement of the 1962 World Cup. The first goal of the 1962 World Cup in Chile’s opening game against Mexico was assisted by Pelé, who also scored the second goal to make it 2-0 after outrunning four defenders. The following game, he was hurt while trying a long shot against Czechoslovakia. As a result, coach Aymoré Moreira had to modify the roster just once throughout the entire competition, keeping him out for the remainder.
Amarildo filled in and did well for the remainder of the competition. However, after Brazil defeated Czechoslovakia in the World Cup final in Santiago, it was Garrincha who would step up and lead Brazil to their second championship. Before FIFA criteria were revised in 1978 to include the complete team, only players who participated in the final at the time were eligible for a medal. Pelé received his winner’s medal retrospectively in 2007.
1966 World Cup.
Brazil had players like Garrincha, Gilmar, and Djalma Santos in addition to other stars like Jairzinho, Tosto, and Gérson during the 1966 World Cup in England, when Pelé was the most well-known football player in the world, raising expectations for the team. Brazil played only three matches before being eliminated in the first round. The Portuguese and Bulgarian defenders’ vicious fouls on Pelé during the World Cup, among other things, left him hurt.
Pelé became the first player to score in three consecutive FIFA World Cups when he converted a free kick against Bulgaria, although he missed the second game against Hungary due to an injury sustained as a result of severe fouling by the Bulgarians. After the first game, according to his coach, “every team will take care of him in the same manner.” Vicente Feola, the Brazilian coach, summoned Pelé back for the final, important encounter against Portugal at Goodison Park in Liverpool even though he was still suffering from that defeat of Brazil.
Feola replaced the whole defense, including the goalie, but kept the same shape in midfield from the first game. Joo Morais of Portugal fouled Pelé during the match, but referee George McCabe did not dismiss him; this judgment is now regarded as one of the worst in World Cup history.
Due to the fact that substitutions were not permitted at the time, Pelé was forced to finish the game limping on the pitch. Brazil was eliminated from the tournament as a result of their defeat to the Portuguese team, which was led by Eusébio. He made the promise to never play in another World Cup match after this one, a commitment he would later break.
1970 World Cup.
Early in 1969, Pelé received a request to join the national squad. He initially declined, but later accepted and participated in six World Cup qualification games, scoring six goals. It was anticipated that Pelé would retire after the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. Major changes were made to Brazil’s 1966 team for the competition.
Garrincha, Nilton Santos, Valdir Pereira, Djalma Santos, and Gilmar, among others, had already announced their retirement. However, the greatest football team in history is sometimes cited as the Brazil 1970 World Cup team, which had players like Pelé, Rivelino, Jairzinho, Gérson, Carlos Alberto Torres, Tost, and Clodoaldo.
The attacking momentum was provided by the front five of Jairzinho, Pelé, Gerson, Tosto, and Rivelino. Pelé was instrumental in guiding Brazil to the final. The tournament’s final and all of Brazil’s other games were played in Guadalajara.
Pelé came close to scoring during the first half of the match against England, but Gordon Banks, the goalie for England, saved it. When he headed the ball, Pelé remembered that he was already yelling “Goal.” The “save of the century” was frequently used to describe it. He controlled a Tosto cross in the second half before passing the ball to Jairzinho, who scored the game’s lone goal.
Pelé scored twice in Brazil’s 3-2 victory over Romania, including a free kick that bent 20 yards. Brazil defeated Peru 4-2, with Tosto assisting Pelé on Brazil’s third goal in the quarterfinal. Brazil and Uruguay met in the semifinal for the first time since the 1950 World Cup final round game. Brazil led 2-1 after Jairzinho’s goal, then 3-1 after Rivelino’s help from Pelé.
Pelé made one of his most well-known plays in that game. Ladislao Mazurkiewicz, the goalkeeper for Uruguay, noticed that Tosto had passed the ball for Pelé to receive, and he sprinted off his line to intercept it before Pelé could touch it. Pelé, who arrived first, used a feint to trick Mazurkiewicz by not touching the ball, allowing it to roll to his left while he moved to his right. In an attempt to recover the ball, Pelé sprinted around the goalkeeper. As he turned to shoot, the ball missed the far post due to Pelé’s excessive spin.
At the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, Brazil faced Italy in the championship game. After out-jumping Italian defender Tarcisio Burgnich, Pelé scored the game’s first goal with a header. One of the most famous moments in World Cup history is when Pelé celebrates Brazil’s 100th goal by leaping into the arms of teammate Jairzinho.
The third goal by Jairzinho and the fourth by Carlos Alberto for Brazil were both assisted by him. Due to the participation of all but two of the club’s outfield players, the last goal of the game is frequently regarded as the greatest team goal in history. Pelé’s blind pass into Carlos Alberto’s sprinting path brought the play to a close. He scored by sprinting in from behind and hitting the ball.
Brazil defeated the opposition 4-1 to retain the Jules Rimet Trophy, and Pelé was awarded the Golden Ball for being the competition’s top player. “I told myself before the game, he’s made of skin and bones just like everyone else – but I was wrong,” said Burgnich, who marked Pelé during the championship. Pelé was personally responsible for 53% of Brazil’s goals during the 1970 World Cup based on his goals and assists during the event.
The 18th of July 1971, saw Pelé play in his final international game in Rio de Janeiro against Yugoslavia. The Brazilian team’s record with Pelé on the pitch was 67 victories, 14 ties, and 11 loses. When Pelé and Garrincha were on the field for Brazil, the team never lost.
In his personal life, Pelé would experience hardships, particularly after Edinho, his son, was detained on drug-related charges. Five children were born to his first two marriages to Assiria Seixas Lemos and Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi, and two girls were born out of wedlock. Marcia Cibele Aoki, a businesswoman, was his future wife.