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Pele, the global face of soccer, is dead

by John Ocholi

Pelé, the Brazilian king of soccer who won a record three World Cups, passed away on Thursday at age 82.

His agent Joe Fraga confirmed his death.

The standard-bearer of “the beautiful game” had undergone treatment for colon cancer since 2021. He had been hospitalized for the last month with multiple ailments.

Widely regarded as one of soccer’s greatest players, Pelé spent nearly two decades enchanting fans and dazzling opponents as the game’s most prolific scorer with Brazilian club Santos and the Brazil national team.

His grace, athleticism, and mesmerizing moves transfixed players and fans. He orchestrated a fast, fluid style that revolutionize the sport.

Pele’s astonishing 1279 goals in 1363 games is recognized as a world record, while he remains tied with Neymar as Brazil’s leading goalscorer on 77.

His emergence at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden remains the greatest debut bow in the history of football’s biggest tournament. His six goals in four matches helped carry Brazil to their first-ever World Cup triumph and made their young striker a household name overnight.

Further World Cup glory awaited in 1962, albeit in a tournament during which injury denied the world from seeing Pele at his absolute pomp.

In 1970, Pele returned to true pre-eminence on the world stage, leading one of the greatest international sides of all time to World Cup glory in Mexico.

Pelé, along with the likes of Rivelino, Jairzinho, Gérson, Carlos Alberto, Tostão, and Clodoaldo, lit up the tournament – the first to be shown globally in colour – with a series of electrifying performances culminating in a 4-1 defeat of Italy in the final.

Pele himself scored the opening goal before turning provider to assist goals for both Jairzinho and Carlos Alberto.

Greats of the games including Johan Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer, Ferenc Puskas, and Bobby Moore named Pele the greatest player in history, a standing which remained indelibly attached to him even with the emergence of football’s modern greats.

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