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Brazilian soccer legend Pelé has died

Brazilian soccer legend Pelé died at 82 years old

Brazilian icon Pelé, one of the greatest sports figures of the 20th Century, died at 82 years old after a fight with colon cancer. The three-time World Cup champion is considered the greatest soccer player in history.

Long before Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Diego Maradona were considered among the greatest soccer players in the world, Pelé set the standard for soccer excellence. 

“Inspiration and love marked the journey of King Pelé, who passed away today,” Pelé’s Twitter account announced Thursday afternoon. “Love, love and love, forever.”

Pelé defined the jogo bonito, the beautiful game, since the 1950s.

Pelé left mark on the world

He starred on the pitch as a teenager with the Brazilian national team and then as an aging veteran finishing his career with the New York Cosmos. Edson Arantes do Nascimento was born in Três Corações, Minas Gerais, Brazil, on Oct. 23, 1940. 

“Everything we are is thanks to you,” Pelé’s daughter Kely Nascimento posted Thursday afternoon on Instagram. “We love you infinitely. Rest in peace.”

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She posted the message with a picture that appears to show family members holding hands with the soccer legend on his hospital bed in Brazil.

Pelé debuted with Brazilian club Santos as a 15-year-old in 1956. By 16, he was already the leading goal scorer in Brazil’s top division. Pelé then became the youngest player to score for the Brazilian national team in 1957, when he was still 16.

Then in 1958, the 17-year-old Pelé became the youngest player to participate in a World Cup. He scored a hat trick in the semifinals of that World Cup against France. 

A World Cup force

He added two more goals in the 5-2 victory over Sweden in the final to earn his first World Cup title. Pelé won another World Cup title four years later although he was limited that year by injuries. He added his third World Cup title at Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium against Italy in 1970.

Brazilian football star Pele displays the FIFA World Cup during its presentation in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on February 6, 2010. PHOTO by Gabriel Lopes, AFP via Getty Images)

He finished his career as the Brazilian national team’s all-time leading scorer with 95 goals in 114 matches.

Pelé played 19 seasons for Santos before joining the New York Cosmos of the now-defunct North American Soccer League. He was a box office sensation, filling stadiums everywhere he and the Cosmos went. He scored 37 goals from 1975 through 1977 for the Cosmos.

It’s a testament to Pelé’s greatness that he remained the standard by which all of the soccer greats are still measured.

“There’s Pelé the man, and then Pelé the player,” French football great and three-time Ballon d’Or winner Michel Platini once said about Pelé. “And to play like Pelé is to play like God.”

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