Soccer world pays tribute to Pelé after Brazilian star’s death


The soccer world lost its greatest legend Thursday, when Pelé died at 82, and the sport’s biggest stars poured forth their tributes.

One of the most heartfelt came from Neymar, who has followed in Pelé’s footsteps as Brazil’s foremost active player. Neymar also wears the jersey number, 10, that Pelé made iconic and was subsequently worn to exhilarating effect by the likes of Michel Platini, Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi.

“Before Pelé, ’10’ was just a number,” Neymar wrote in Portuguese on his Instagram account. “I read that phrase somewhere, at some point in my life. But that sentence, beautiful, is incomplete. I would say that before Pelé, football was just a sport.

“Pelé changed everything,” Neymar continued. “He turned football into art, into entertainment. He gave a voice to the poor, to black people and especially: Gave visibility to Brazil. Football and Brazil have raised their status thanks to the King! He is gone, but his magic will remain. Pele is ETERNAL!!”

Messi, who recently equaled Maradona’s greatest feat by leading Argentina to the World Cup title, shared a simple message Thursday, writing “Rest in peace, Pelé” in Spanish.

Another renowned no. 10, Germany’s Mesut Özil, posted a photo of Pelé and Maradona while tweeting: “Rest in peace to one of the greatest legends of the game. Your legacy will live forever. I’m sure ‘Heaven FC’ with Maradona and Pele together will be invincible forever.”

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo is associated with jersey No. 7, but as with Pelé, Maradona and Messi, he is often named in best-ever discussions. On Thursday, Ronaldo showed his reverence for the late luminary by using one of Pelé’s nicknames that reflected the latter’s regal standing in his sport.

“A mere ‘goodbye’ to the eternal King Pelé will never be enough to express the pain that currently embraces the entire world of football,” Ronaldo wrote in Portuguese. “An inspiration for so many millions. … He will never be forgotten and his memory will live on forever in each of us football lovers. Rest in peace, King Pelé.”

Perspective | What Pelé, soccer’s one-name wonder, meant to the beautiful game

Also hailing Pelé as the “king” was Kylian Mbappé, who scored three goals for France in the World Cup final and also converted in a shootout that went to Argentina. Mbappé’s heroics had garnered accolades earlier this month from Pelé, who referred to the 24-year-old Frenchman as “my dear friend” while saluting Messi and Co. for an “enthralling” triumph.

“The king of football has left us but his legacy will never be forgotten,” Mbappé wrote on Thursday.

Also nicknamed the “Black Pearl” and formally named Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pelé was born into impoverished circumstances but wasted little time making his mark in soccer. At 15, he impressed Brazilian club Santos enough to earn a contract, and Pelé was just 17 when he led his country to the 1958 World Cup title. After helping Brazil win the tournament again in 1962 and 1970, Pelé remains the only player to win the World Cup three times.

How many goals he scored is a matter of some debate, depending on how much weight one gives to friendlies and how much credence one places in historical accounts. Whether it was 778 in 846 official matches (per RSSSF) or 1,281 goals in 1,363 matches (per FIFA), video of his exploits and testimony from those who saw Pelé play make clear that his brilliance extended far beyond a preternatural ability to put the ball. to.

“Pelé had everything a player should have,” said César Luis Menotti, a former teammate with Santos who went on to manage Argentina to the 1978 World Cup title. “Agile, jumped like no one, could kick with both legs, physically very strong and brave. There was no one like Pelé.

“I had the privilege that younger Brazilians didn’t have: I saw Pelé play, live, at Pacaembu and Morumbi,” tweeted Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. “Play, no. I saw Pelé give a show. Because when he got the ball he always did something special, which often ended up in a goal.”

In the United States, President Biden and former president Barack Obama also shared words of praise.

“For a sport that brings the world together like no other, Pelé’s rise from humble beginnings to soccer legend is a story of what is possible,” Biden said on Twitter. “Today, Jill and I’s thoughts are with his family and all those who loved him.”

“Pelé was one of the greatest to ever play the beautiful game,” Obama tweeted, sharing a photo of himself holding a signed Brazil jersey with the Brazilian icon. “And as one of the most recognizable athletes in the world, he understood the power of sports to bring people together.”

FIFA President Gianni Infantino pointed to Pelé’s grace on and off the field.

“’The King’ rose [to] the throne with a smile on his face,” Infantino said in a statement. “Football could be brutal in those days, and Pelé was often on the receiving end of some rough treatment. But, while he knew how to stand up for himself, he was always an exemplary sportsman, with genuine respect for his opponents. … Today, we all mourn the loss of the physical presence of our dear Pelé, but he achieved immortality a long time ago and therefore he will be with us for eternity.”

Brazil and the world mourn: There was only one Pelé

Pelé died of complications from colon cancer, according to his manager. Pelé had been receiving treatment for the illness at a hospital in São Paulo. Santos’s stadium will host his funeral Monday and Tuesday, per the AP.

After retiring from Santos in 1974, Pelé played an incalculably valuable role in expanding the popularity of soccer in the United States by signing with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League. His presence turned the previously struggling squad into an international sensation and helped lure European stars such as Giorgio Chinaglia and Franz Beckenbauer to what had been a backwater for the sport.

“Football lost the greatest in its history today — and I am a unique friend,” Beckenbauer, who led West Germany to World Cup titles both as a player and manager, said Thursday. “Born in Três Corações, Pelé had three hearts: for football, for his family, for all people. One who played with the stars and always remained grounded. In 1977, I went to the United States. Because I really wanted to play in a team with Pelé at the New York Cosmos. That time by his side was one of the greatest moments of my career. We became US champions together straight away, and Pelé called me his brother from that moment. It was an unimaginable honor for me.”

“Pele was the sport’s first global superstar,” said Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber. tweeted, “His legacy and contributions to the game are unmatched — here in the United States and throughout the world.”

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