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Pelé, Global Soccer Legend, Dead at 82: 'Forever the King of Football'

The Brazilian sports icon is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time.

Pele in a New York Cosmos uniform
Getty Images

Pelé, one of the world's most well-known soccer players, died Thursday at age 82 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Kely Nascimento, the sports icon's daughter, confirmed his death on Instagram.

"Everything we are is because of you," she wrote alongside a picture of her father surrounded by loved ones. "We love you infinitely. Rest in peace." Pelé suffered various health ailments over the last decade or so, including cancer.  

Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento on Oct. 23, 1940, the athlete was better known by his childhood nickname, Pelé. As a child, he played soccer barefoot on the streets of his rural village. He kicked off his soccer career at Santos FC at age 15, and he started playing on the Brazilian national team just one year after that. Over the course of an extremely successful career, Pelé scored more than 1,200 goals and accumulated three World Cup victories, in 1958, 1962 and 1970, a record that has yet to be bested. 

He emerged as a symbol of soccer's ability to transcend borders and is generally regarded as one of the best soccer players of all time. Brazilian professional footballer Thiago Silva, now a center-back for Chelsea FC, called Pelé "forever the king of football" following his death on Thursday. 

Pelé might be best known for his prowess on the pitch, but the star athlete went on to do many other great things over the years. In 1992, he became a UN ambassador for the environment. He was appointed a Unesco Goodwill Ambassador in 1994, and he was given an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in 1997. In 2018, he founded the Pelé Foundation with the goal of helping impoverished youth around the world.

In September of 2021, Pelé underwent surgery to remove a colon tumor. According to NBC News, he was admitted to the hospital last month "to regulate medication for an infection." 

Tributes to Pelé are pouring in from players and fans everywhere. "Thank you for the joy you brought to football fans around the world," UK football club Manchester United tweeted. Wrote Mumbai City FC, "The beautiful game is forever indebted."