SAO PAULO (AFP) – Three-time World Cup champion and legendary Brazilian footballer Pele died on Thursday at the age of 82 sparking a barrage of tributes from the sports world and beyond.
After a protracted fight with cancer, the football icon passed away due to “multiple organ failure,” according to a statement released by the Albert Einstein hospital in Sao Paulo.
“We love you infinitely. Rest in peace,” daughter Kely Nascimento wrote on Instagram.
The whole football community, including his old teammates and current players, gathered to pay tribute to “O Rei” (The King), who changed the game over a long professional career that started while he was still a teenager.
Pele “turned football into an art,” according to Brazilian star Neymar; France’s Kylian Mbappe claimed his legacy “will never be forgotten”; and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo referred to him as “an inspiration to millions.”
Lionel Messi, the captain of the World Cup-winning Argentina team, merely wrote: “Rest in peace.”
Three days have been set aside for national mourning in Brazil, according to President Jair Bolsonaro, and President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva tweeted, “Thank you, Pele.”
Only Pele, who won the World Cup in 1958, 1962, and 1970, has ever won three World Cup trophies.
In 1,363 games over the course of his 21-year career, he scored a record 1,281 goals.
He was fighting colon cancer, which required surgery in September 2021, followed by chemotherapy, and kidney issues, both of which had been deteriorating his health.