New Delhi: Tributes pour in for Brazil’s football legend Pele, who passed away at the age of 82 after battling cancer. Current and former players took to social media to pay their respects. Brazil’s football player Neymar paid tribute to Pele and said, “King” Pele “changed everything”. “Before Pele, football was only a sport,” Neymar wrote on Instagram.

“Pele changed everything. He turned football into art, into entertainment. He gave a voice to the poor, to black people.” Neymar added: “Mainly: he gave visibility to Brazil. Football and Brazil raised their status thanks to the King! He is gone, but his magic will remain.” French football player, Kylian Mbappe also described Pele as “the king of football”, adding “his legacy will never be forgotten”.

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo said, “A mere goodbye to the eternal King Pele will never be enough to express the pain that is enveloping the whole of the football world right now. “The care he always showed for me was reciprocated in every moment we shared, even when we were apart. “His memory will endure forever in every one of us who love football.”

United States President Joe Biden said: “For a sport that brings the world together like no other, Pele’s rise from humble beginnings to soccer legend is a story of what is possible.”

President of the football’s world governing body Fifa Gianni Infantino said he was “heartbroken” on “a truly tragic day for football” and described Pele as “the athlete of the century”. Infantino continued: “Pele tried things that no other player would even dream of, such as the famous dummy in the 1970 World Cup semi-final that became known as the ‘Pele run-around’. “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 Pele; the greatest footballer of all time.”

Richarlison called Pele football’s “most beautiful chapter” and said he “changed the history of the game forever”. “You will always be the greatest because 60 years ago, with all the difficulties you faced, you did what only a few have managed to do today,” Richarlison said.

England’s Sir Geoff Hurst said Pele was “without doubt the best football I ever played against”, adding: “I was proud to be on the pitch with him.” Fellow 1966 champion Sir Bobby Charlton hailed Pele as “a truly magical footballer and a wonderful human being”. Pele’s former club Santos posted a picture of a crown with the word “eternal”.

Pele’s 1958 and 1962 World Cup-winning team-mate Mario Zagallo said: “My friend of so many victories, titles and shared stories. He leaves an eternal, unforgettable legacy.”

Former England striker Gary Lineker said Pele will “always have footballing immortality” as “the most divine of footballers and joyous of men”. The Football Association will light up the Wembley arch in Brazil colours and said: “Everyone who loves football, loves Pele.” Eight-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt paid tribute and described Pele as “a sporting legend”.

New York Cosmos – where Pele finished his club career in 1977 – said he “started a sporting revolution in America”. The club added that he “helped popularise soccer across the United States”, saying: “Where once there had been baseball diamonds, now there were also soccer pitches.”

The Twitter account of Brazil’s government described Pele as “our mighty Brazilian hero” who will be “immortalised by his genius”. Pele’s daughter Kely Nascimento posted a picture of what appeared to be Pele’s family’s hands on his body in hospital and wrote: “Everything we are is thanks to you. We love you infinitely. Rest in peace.”

The Brazilian Football Confederation described him as “much more than the greatest sportsperson of all time”. A statement said: “The King gave us a new Brazil and we are so thankful for his legacy.”

Pele’s official Instagram account said he had “spread what he most believed to be the cure for all our problems: love”. The three-time World Cup champion, whose actual name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento, was reportedly dealing with kidney and heart issues and was hospitalised since November with multiple ailments.

In September 2021, Pele had a colon tumour removed, however on November 29, he was checked into the Albert Einstein hospital in Sao Paulo, according to Al Jazeera. Pele, widely regarded as the game’s most gifted player, guided Brazil to three World Cup victories in 1958, 1962, and 1970. 

Pele was named Fifa’s Player of the Century in 2000. During his playing days, Pele scored a world record 1,281 goals in 1,363 appearances during a 21-year career, including 77 goals in 92 matches for his country.

 



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