SAO PAULO — Soccer great Pelé, whose health had been deteriorating in recent weeks, died Thursday at 82, The Associated Press reported.
The Brazilian sports icon had been at Albert Einstein hospital in Sao Paulo under “elevated care” related to “kidney and cardiac dysfunctions,” as we previously reported.
Pelé, born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, had been receiving treatments for colon cancer since 2021. His agent, Joe Fraga, confirmed his death to the AP.
Pelé won the 1958 World Cup as a teenager with Brazil and added titles in 1962 and 1970. He remains the country’s all-time leading scorer with 77 goals in 92 matches, according to The Associated Press.
In 2000, FIFA named Pelé as its Player of the Century, CNN reported. It was an honor he shared with Argentina’s Diego Maradona.
Different sources, depending on the games counted, list Pelé’s goal totals between 650 (league matches) and 1,281 (all senior matches), according to the AP.
Pelé’s fame transcended politics. In 1967, factions of a civil war in Nigeria agreed to a brief cease-fire so that he could play an exhibition match in the country, the AP reported. Pelé visited Washington D.C. in the 1980s to promote soccer in North America and shook hands with then-President Ronald Reagan.
“My name is Ronald Reagan, I’m the president of the United States of America,” the host said to his visitor. “But you don’t need to introduce yourself because everyone knows who Pelé is.”
Famous for rarely being injured during his career with Brazil and with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League, Pelé suffered from hip problems and was unable to walk without assistance at the end of his life, Reuters reported.