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Brazilian soccer legend Pelé dies at age 82

Pelé, the soccer legend who inspired a nation on and off the field, died Thursday after battling colon cancer. He was 82.  

Pelé had a tumor removed in September 2021 and had been undergoing chemotherapy since then. He was admitted into the hospital in late November, with his daughter saying it was to regulate his medication. However, in recent weeks, his condition worsened, and he was put into palliative care just a few days later.

Pelé was then placed into “elevated care” last week related to “kidney and cardiac dysfunctions,” the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo said in a statement. His agent confirmed his passing to The Associated Press.

A member of three Brazilian World Cup champion teams, Pelé was widely regarded as the greatest soccer player off all time and often was given credit for coining the term “the beautiful game,” used to describe the sport. 


Edson Arantes do Nascimiento, whose father was a struggling soccer player, was born in Tres Coracoes, Brazil, and grew up in poverty in Bauru in the state of Sao Paulo. He was named after the American inventor Thomas Edison, though his parents decided to remove the “I” and call him Edson. He was nicknamed “Dico” by his family. 

However, it was the nickname “Pelé” that the world came to know. 

Its origin is unclear, with Pelé himself saying that he didn’t know how it started. However, urban legend says that his school friends gave it to him after he mispronounced the name of his favorite soccer player, Vasco da Gama’s goalkeeper, Bile. 

Brazil's Pelé holds up his team's Jules Rimet Trophy, or the FIFA World Cup Trophy, following Brazil's 4-1 victory over Italy at the World Cup at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City on June 21, 1970.

While promoting “Pele: Birth of a Legend,” a biopic of his early life, he told Fox News Latino in 2016 that he never liked the nickname when he was a young boy, but eventually started to love it as fans around the world began chanting it more and more. 

“I could not change it,” Pelé said at the time


Pelé began playing soccer as a young child and usually played with a sock stuffed with newspaper and tied with a string or with a grapefruit. He played on several amateur teams, even leading the local Bauru Athletic Club juniors team to two Sao Paulo state youth championships. 

At the age of 15, his youth coach, Waldemar de Brito, a former member of the Brazilian national soccer team, convinced Pelé’s parents to let the budding phenomenon try out for the Santos professional club. 

Brazilian soccer legend Pelé attends the 2018 World Cup draw in the Kremlin in Moscow on Dec. 1, 2017.

The teenager was signed and immediately began making an impact. He scored the first professional goal of his career before he turned 16 and led the Brazilian soccer league in goals scored in his first full season. 

The world was officially introduced to the phenom at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. Displaying remarkable speed, athleticism and field vision, the 17-year-old Pelé scored three goals in a 5-2 semifinal win over France before netting two more goals in the 5-2 championship win over the host country. 


Then-Brazilian President Janio Quadros went on to declare the young superstar a national treasure, which made it harder legally for him to play in another country. Nevertheless, Pelé went on to play lucrative exhibition matches with teams around the world. 

Pelé was a member of three Brazilian World Cup champion teams.

Pelé helped Brazil to win two more World Cup trophies — at the 1962 World Cup in Chile and the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. Brazil crashed out in the first round of the 1966 World Cup in England, having only played three matches. 


Throughout the years, the legend of Pelé continued to grow — so much so that in the late 1960s, the two factions in the Nigerian Civil War reportedly agreed to a 48-hour ceasefire so they could watch him play in an exhibition game in Lagos. 

Former President Ronald Reagan summarized Pelé’s stardom when the soccer star visited him at the White House: “My name is Ronald Reagan, I’m the president of the United States of America. But you don’t need to introduce yourself, because everyone knows who Pelé is.”  


Pelé went on to play for the New York Cosmos in the North American Soccer League after a brief retirement from the sport. 

Pelé attends the Fifth Avenue Flagship Opening at Hublot Boutique in New York City on April 19, 2016.

He played his final game in an exhibition between New York and Santos in October 1977, competing for both sides. He retired with a total of 1,281 goals in 1,363 games. 

Pelé held the records for youngest player to play in a World Cup final, youngest goal scorer and youngest hat-trick scorer in World Cup history. 

In 1978, he was awarded the International Peace Award for his work with UNICEF, and in 1999, FIFA named him “Co-Player of the Century” along with Argentine star Diego Maradona. 

Pelé is survived by his third wife, Marcia Aoki, six children from various relationships, and several grandchildren.  

Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos and Paulina Dedaj contributed to this report.

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