Pelé | Edson Arantes do Nascimento | Three Time World Cup Winner | Obituary

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Obituary – Pelé – Edson Arantes do Nascimento – Three Time World Cup Winner

Pelé, who has died aged 82 after suffering from cancer, is widely regarded as the greatest footballer the game has ever seen. He was the only player to have won the World Cup three times, and perhaps the most remarkable aspect of his long career was that he reached his apotheosis so early, and on the world’s biggest stage. He was 17 when he played for Brazil in the 1958 World Cup finals in Sweden, scoring six goals in their last three games – the winner in the quarter-final, a hat-trick in the semi-final and two in the final – his confidence and stature growing palpably with every game.

  • Died: December 29th, 2022
  • Details of death: passed away after a long battle with cancer.

 

Early Years

Pelé was born Edson Arantes do Nascimento on 23 October 1940 in Três Corações, Minas Gerais, the son of Fluminense footballer Dondinho (born João Ramos do Nascimento) and Celeste Arantes. He was the elder of two siblings, and was named after the American inventor Thomas Edison. His parents decided to remove the “i” and call him “Edson”, but there was a typo on his birth certificate, leading many documents to show his name as “Edison”, not “Edson”, as he was called. He was originally nicknamed “Dico” by his family. He received the nickname “Pelé” during his school days, when, it is claimed, he was given it because of his pronunciation of the name of his favourite player, local Vasco da Gama goalkeeper Bilé, which he misspoke, but the more he complained the more it stuck. In his autobiography, Pelé stated he had no idea what the name means, nor did his old friends. Apart from the assertion that the name is derived from that of “Bilé”, and that it is Hebrew for “miracle” (פֶּ֫לֶא), the word has no known meaning in Portuguese.

Pelé grew up in poverty in Bauru in the state of São Paulo. He earned extra money by working in tea shops as a servant. Taught to play by his father, he could not afford a proper football and usually played with either a sock stuffed with newspaper and tied with string or a grapefruit. He played for several amateur teams in his youth, including Sete de Setembro, Canto do Rio, São Paulinho, and Ameriquinha. Pelé led Bauru Atlético Clube juniors (coached by Waldemar de Brito) to two São Paulo state youth championships. In his mid-teens, he played for an indoor football team called Radium. Indoor football had just become popular in Bauru when Pelé began playing it. He was part of the first futsal (indoor football) competition in the region. Pelé and his team won the first championship and several others.

According to Pelé, futsal (indoor football) presented difficult challenges: he said it was a lot quicker than football on the grass, and that players were required to think faster because everyone is close to each other in the pitch. Pelé credits futsal for helping him think better on the spot. In addition, futsal allowed him to play with adults when he was about 14 years old. In one of the tournaments he participated in, he was initially considered too young to play, but eventually went on to end up top scorer with 14 or 15 goals. “That gave me a lot of confidence”, Pelé said, “I knew then not to be afraid of whatever might come”.

International Career

Pelé’s first international match was a 2–1 defeat against Argentina on 7 July 1957 at the Maracanã. In that match, he scored his first goal for Brazil aged 16 years and nine months, and he remains the youngest goalscorer for his country.

1958 World Cup

Pelé arrived in Sweden sidelined by a knee injury but on his return from the treatment room, his colleagues stood together and insisted upon his selection. His first match was against the USSR in the third match of the first round of the 1958 FIFA World Cup, where he gave the assist to Vavá’s second goal. He was at the time the youngest player ever to participate in the World Cup. Against France in the semi-final, Brazil was leading 2–1 at halftime, and then Pelé scored a hat-trick, becoming the youngest player in World Cup history to do so.

On 29 June 1958, Pelé became the youngest player to play in a World Cup final match at 17 years and 249 days. He scored two goals in that final as Brazil beat Sweden 5–2 in Stockholm, the capital. Pelé hit the post and then Vavá scored two goals to give Brazil the lead. Pelé’s first goal, where he flicked the ball over a defender before volleying into the corner of the net, was selected as one of the best goals in the history of the World Cup. Following Pelé’s second goal, Swedish player Sigvard Parling would later comment, “When Pelé scored the fifth goal in that Final, I have to be honest and say I felt like applauding”. When the match ended, Pelé passed out on the field, and was revived by Garrincha. He then recovered, and was compelled by the victory to weep as he was being congratulated by his teammates. He finished the tournament with six goals in four matches played, tied for second place, behind record-breaker Just Fontaine, and was named best young player of the tournament. His impact was arguably greater off the field, with Barney Ronay writing, “With nothing but talent to guide him, the boy from Minas Gerais became the first black global sporting superstar, and a source of genuine uplift and inspiration.”

It was in the 1958 World Cup that Pelé began wearing a jersey with the number 10. The event was the result of disorganization: the leaders of the Brazilian Federation did not allocate the shirt numbers of players and it was up to FIFA to choose the number 10 shirt for Pelé, who was a substitute on the occasion. The press proclaimed Pelé the greatest revelation of the 1958 World Cup, and he was also retroactively given the Silver Ball as the second best player of the tournament, behind Didi.

1962 World Cup

When the 1962 World Cup started, Pelé was the best-rated player in the world. In the first match of the 1962 World Cup in Chile, against Mexico, Pelé assisted the first goal and then scored the second one, after a run past four defenders, to go up 2–0. He got injured in the next game while attempting a long-range shot against Czechoslovakia. This would keep him out of the rest of the tournament, and forced coach Aymoré Moreira to make his only lineup change of the tournament. The substitute was Amarildo, who performed well for the rest of the tournament. However, it was Garrincha who would take the leading role and carry Brazil to their second World Cup title, after beating Czechoslovakia at the final in Santiago. At the time, only players who appeared in the final were eligible for a medal before FIFA regulations were changed in 1978 to include the entire squad, with Pelé receiving his winner’s medal retroactively in 2007.

1966 World Cup

Pelé was the most famous footballer in the world during the 1966 World Cup in England, and Brazil fielded some world champions like Garrincha, Gilmar and Djalma Santos with the addition of other stars like Jairzinho, Tostão and Gérson, leading to high expectations for them. Brazil was eliminated in the first round, playing only three matches. The World Cup was marked, among other things, for brutal fouls on Pelé that left him injured by the Bulgarian and Portuguese defenders.

Pelé scored the first goal from a free kick against Bulgaria, becoming the first player to score in three successive FIFA World Cups, but due to his injury, a result of persistent fouling by the Bulgarians, he missed the second game against Hungary. His coach stated that after the first game he felt “every team will take care of him in the same manner”. Brazil lost that game and Pelé, although still recovering, was brought back for the last crucial match against Portugal at Goodison Park in Liverpool by the Brazilian coach Vicente Feola. Feola changed the entire defense, including the goalkeeper, while in midfield he returned to the formation of the first match. During the game, Portugal defender João Morais fouled Pelé, but was not sent off by referee George McCabe; a decision retrospectively viewed as being among the worst refereeing errors in World Cup history. Pelé had to stay on the field limping for the rest of the game since substitutes were not allowed at that time. Brazil lost the match against the Portuguese led by Eusébio and were eliminated from the tournament as a result. After this game he vowed he would never again play in the World Cup, a decision he would later change.

1970 World Cup

Pelé was called to the national team in early 1969, he refused at first, but then accepted and played in six World Cup qualifying matches, scoring six goals. The 1970 World Cup in Mexico was expected to be Pelé’s last. Brazil’s squad for the tournament featured major changes to the 1966 squad. Players like Garrincha, Nilton Santos, Valdir Pereira, Djalma Santos, and Gilmar had already retired. However, Brazil’s 1970 World Cup squad, which included players like Pelé, Rivelino, Jairzinho, Gérson, Carlos Alberto Torres, Tostão and Clodoaldo, is often considered to be the greatest football team in history.

The front five of Jairzinho, Pelé, Gerson, Tostão, and Rivelino together created an attacking momentum, with Pelé having a central role in Brazil’s way to the final. All of Brazil’s matches in the tournament (except the final) were played in Guadalajara, and in the first match against Czechoslovakia, Pelé gave Brazil a 2–1 lead, by controlling Gerson’s long pass with his chest and then scoring. In this match Pelé attempted to lob goalkeeper Ivo Viktor from the halfway line, only narrowly missing the Czechoslovak goal. Brazil went on to win the match, 4–1. In the first half of the match against England, Pelé nearly scored with a header that was saved by the England goalkeeper Gordon Banks. Pelé recalled he was already shouting “Goal” when he headed the ball. It was often referred to as the “save of the century.” In the second half, he controlled a cross from Tostão before flicking the ball to Jairzinho who scored the only goal.

Against Romania, Pelé scored two goals, which included a 20-yard bending free-kick, with Brazil winning 3–2. In the quarter-final against Peru, Brazil won 4–2, with Pelé assisting Tostão for Brazil’s third goal. In the semi-final, Brazil faced Uruguay for the first time since the 1950 World Cup final round match. Jairzinho put Brazil ahead 2–1, and Pelé assisted Rivelino for the 3–1. During that match, Pelé made one of his most famous plays. Tostão passed the ball for Pelé to collect which Uruguay’s goalkeeper Ladislao Mazurkiewicz took notice of and ran off his line to get the ball before Pelé. However, Pelé got there first and fooled Mazurkiewicz with a feint by not touching the ball, causing it to roll to the goalkeeper’s left, while Pelé went to the goalkeeper’s right. Pelé ran around the goalkeeper to retrieve the ball and took a shot while turning towards the goal, but he turned in excess as he shot, and the ball drifted just wide of the far post.

“I have scored more than a thousand goals in my life and the thing people always talk to me about is the one I didn’t score.” — Pele on the extraordinary save by England goalkeeper Gordon Banks in their 1970 World Cup match.

Brazil played Italy in the final at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. Pelé scored the opening goal with a header after out jumping Italian defender Tarcisio Burgnich. Brazil’s 100th World Cup goal, Pelé’s leap of joy into the arms of teammate Jairzinho in celebrating the goal is regarded as one of the most iconic moments in World Cup history. He then made assists for Brazil’s third goal, scored by Jairzinho, and the fourth finished by Carlos Alberto. The last goal of the game is often considered the greatest team goal of all time because it involved all but two of the team’s outfield players. The play culminated after Pelé made a blind pass that went into Carlos Alberto’s running trajectory. He came running from behind and struck the ball to score. Brazil won the match 4–1, keeping the Jules Rimet Trophy indefinitely, and Pelé received the Golden Ball as the player of the tournament. Burgnich, who marked Pelé during the final, was quoted saying, “I told myself before the game, he’s made of skin and bones just like everyone else – but I was wrong”. In terms of his goals and assists throughout the 1970 World Cup, Pelé was directly responsible for 53% of Brazil’s goals throughout the tournament.

Pelé’s last international match was on 18 July 1971 against Yugoslavia in Rio de Janeiro. With Pelé on the field, the Brazilian team’s record was 67 wins, 14 draws, and 11 losses. Brazil never lost a match while fielding both Pelé and Garrincha.

Relationships and children

Pelé married three times, and had several affairs, fathering at least seven children in all.

In 1966, Pelé married Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi. They had two daughters: Kely Cristina (born 13 January 1967), who married Arthur DeLuca, Jennifer (b. 1978), and one son Edson (“Edinho”, b. 27 August 1970). The couple divorced in 1982. In May 2014, Edinho was jailed for 33 years for laundering money from drug trafficking. On appeal, the sentence was reduced to 12 years and 10 months.

From 1981 to 1986, Pelé was romantically linked with TV presenter Xuxa, which was influential in launching her career. She was 17 when they started dating. In April 1994, Pelé married psychologist and gospel singer Assíria Lemos Seixas, who gave birth on 28 September 1996 to twins Joshua and Celeste through fertility treatments. The couple divorced in 2008.

Pelé had at least two more children from affairs. Sandra Machado, who was born from an affair Pelé had in 1964 with a housemaid, Anizia Machado, fought for years to be acknowledged by Pelé, who refused to submit to DNA tests. Pelé finally relented after a court-ordered DNA test proved she was his daughter. Sandra Machado died of cancer in 2006.

At the age of 73, Pelé announced his intention to marry 41-year-old Marcia Aoki, a Japanese-Brazilian importer of medical equipment from Penápolis, São Paulo, whom he had been dating since 2010. They first met in the mid-1980s in New York, before meeting again in 2008. They married in July 2016.

Health

In 1977, Brazilian media reported that Pelé had his right kidney removed. In November 2012, Pelé underwent a successful hip operation. In December 2017, Pelé appeared in a wheelchair at the 2018 World Cup draw in Moscow where he was pictured with President Vladimir Putin and Argentine footballer Diego Maradona. A month later, he collapsed from exhaustion and was taken to hospital. In 2019, after a hospitalisation because of a urinary tract infection, Pelé underwent surgery to remove kidney stones. In February 2020, his son Edinho reported that Pelé was unable to walk independently and reluctant to leave home, ascribing his condition to a lack of rehabilitation following his hip operation.

In September 2021, Pelé had surgery to remove a tumour on the right side of his colon. Although his eldest daughter Kely stated he was “doing well”, he was reportedly readmitted to intensive care a few days later, before finally being released on 30 September 2021 to begin chemotherapy. In November 2022, ESPN Brasil reported that Pelé had been taken to hospital with “general swelling”, along with cardiac issues and concerns that his chemotherapy treatment was not having the expected effect; his daughter Kely stated there was “no emergency”.

Death

On 21 December 2022, the Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital, where Pelé was being treated, stated that his tumour had advanced and he required “greater care related to renal and cardiac dysfunctions”. Pelé died on 29 December 2022, at the age of 82, due to multiple organ failure, a complication of colon cancer.

“He had a magnetic presence and, when you were with him, the rest of the world stopped. Today, the whole world mourns the loss of Pelé; the greatest footballer of all time.”

—FIFA President, Gianni Infantino

Tributes were paid by current players, including Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappé and Lionel Messi, other major sporting figures, celebrities, and world leaders. Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, declared a three-day period of national mourning. The national flags of the 211 member associations of FIFA were flown at half-mast at FIFA headquarters in Zürich. Landmarks and stadiums lit up in honour of Pelé included the Christ the Redeemer statue and Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, the headquarters of CONMEBOL in Paraguay and Wembley Stadium in London. There was applause and a minute’s silence at matches in honour of Pelé.

Pelé’s funeral, which involved his body being publicly displayed in an open coffin which was draped with the flags of Brazil and Santos FC, began at Vila Belmiro stadium in Santos on 2 January 2023. Thousands of fans flooded the streets to attend the first day of the funeral service, with some in attendance claiming that they had to wait three hours in line. It will continue to 3 January. After the funeral, Pelé will be buried at Memorial Necrópole Ecumênica.

 

Date of birth: 23rd October 1940

Date of Death: 29th December 2022 (aged 82)

 

Sources:

 

Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pel%C3%A9

The Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/football/2022/dec/29/pele-obituary