Pele mesmerizes fans, dazzles opponents as ‘King’

sao paulo – Pele is literally “King”. He embraced “the beautiful game of football” on his World Cup debut for Brazil in 1958 and never really let it go.

He won a record three World Cup titles and is widely regarded as one of the sport’s greatest players. His majestic and inspiring image places him among the most recognizable figures in the world.

Bailey died on Thursday at the age of 82. He started colon cancer treatment in 2021.

One of the most prolific scorers in the game, Bailey has spent nearly two decades mesmerizing fans and dazzling opponents. He stunned everyone with his grace, athleticism and movement on football’s highest stage. He orchestrated a fast, fluid style of play that revolutionized the game – a talent that epitomized the Brazilian’s elegance on the pitch.

He took his country to the pinnacle of football and became a global ambassador for the game, a journey that began in the streets of São Paulo state, where he would kick a sock stuffed with newspaper or rags.

“Pelé changed everything. He turned football into art and entertainment,” Brazilian soccer player Neymar said on Instagram. “Thanks to the King, the status of football and Brazil has been elevated! He is gone, but his magic lives on. Pele is forever!”

Only the late Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo rank alongside him when it comes to football’s greatest players.

Different sources, counting different match sets, list Pele’s goal total anywhere between 650 (league) and 1,281 (all senior games, some for lower tier games). When Maradona once interviewed Pele, he jokingly asked how the Brazilian accumulated so many goals.

The player who came to be known as “The King” was introduced to the world at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden at the age of 17, becoming the tournament’s youngest ever player.

Pele was the symbol of his country’s victory at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. He scored in the final and assisted Carlos Alberto to score the final goal with a careless pass in Italy’s 4-1 win.

The image of Pele in his bright yellow Brazil jersey with the number 10 emblazoned on the back is still alive and well in the hearts of football fans around the world. Just like his signature goal celebration – a right fist leaping overhead.

Pele’s fame was so great that in 1967 factions of the Nigerian Civil War agreed to a brief ceasefire so he could compete in an exhibition game in the country. In 1997, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. When Pele visited Washington to help promote the sport in North America, it was the president of the United States who first reached out.

“You don’t need to introduce yourself because everybody knows who Pele is,” Ronald Reagan said.

Pelé is Brazil’s first modern black national hero, but he rarely talks about racism in a country where the rich and powerful often come from a white minority.

Opposing fans taunted Pele with monkey chants across the country and around the world.

Angelica Basthi, one of Pele’s biographers, said: “He said that if he had to stop every time he heard the chants, he would never play. He is proud of being black in Brazil. The key to the feeling, but he never wanted to be the standard-bearer.”

Pele’s life after football has taken many forms. He was a politician – Brazil’s Special Minister of Sports – a wealthy businessman and an ambassador to UNESCO and the United Nations.

He has acted in movies, soap operas, and even composed songs and recorded CDs for Brazilian pop music.

Pele was an ambassador for the sport until his final years, but his travels and appearances dwindled as his health deteriorated. After needing a hip replacement, he started using a cane.

In the last years of his life, he was often seen in a wheelchair and did not take part in the unveiling of a statue of him representing Brazil in the 1970 World Cup.

“He became very shy, he became very embarrassed,” his son Edinho told Globoesporte.com. “He doesn’t want to go out.”

Bailey celebrated his 80th birthday with several relatives.

In 2021, Bailey was hospitalized for a month after undergoing surgery to remove a tumor from his colon. Bailey said he was ready to “play 90 minutes, plus overtime,” but soon began chemotherapy.

Pele was born on October 23, 1940 in the small town of Tres Colacos in the interior of the state of Minas Gerais, to Edson Arantes Donascimento, who grew up shining shoes and buying his modest footballs equipment. His father was also a player.

Pele’s talent was noticed at the age of 11, and a local professional brought him to Santos’ youth team. Despite his youth, at 5-foot-8, Bailey scored as easily against grown men as he did against his friends in his hometown. In 1956, at the age of 15, he made his debut for the Brazilian club, who quickly gained worldwide recognition.

The name Pele came from his mispronouncing the name of a player named Billy. He was later known simply as “O Rei” – The King.

Pele entered the 1958 World Cup as a substitute but went on to become a key member of his country’s championship team. His first goal, flicking the ball over the head of a defender before volleying around him, was voted one of the best goals in World Cup history.

“When Pele scores,” said Swedish veteran Sig Palin, “I have to be honest, I want to applaud.”

The 1966 World Cup in England – won by the hosts – was a painful match for Pele, who was already considered the world’s top player by then. Brazil were knocked out at the group stage and Pele, furious at Portugal for fouling and tough tackles, swore it was his last World Cup.

He changed his mind and was rejuvenated in the 1970 World Cup. Against England, he headed home, but the great Gordon Banks sent the ball over the bar with a stunning move. Pele likened the best save in World Cup history to “a salmon climbing a waterfall”. He later scored the opening goal in the final against Italy, his last World Cup game.

Pele played a total of 114 games for Brazil, scoring a record 95 goals, 77 of which were scored in official matches. Most of his goals came with Santos, who he led to five national titles, two Copa Libertadores titles and two club world titles – all in the 1960s.

His association with Santos lasted more than three decades until he entered semi-retirement at the end of the 1972 season. Wealthy European clubs tried to sign him, but the Brazilian government stepped in to prevent his sale and declared him a national treasure.

On the pitch, Pele’s dynamism, vision and imagination drove a talented Brazil national team, cutting through defenses with intricate passing combinations while leaving room for players to showcase their finesse.

The fast, fluid style of play embodies “O Jogo Bonito” – Portuguese for “beautiful game”. And at the center of it all, like a maestro conducting his orchestra, is Bailey. It was his 1977 autobiography My Life and the Beautiful Game that made the phrase part of the football lexicon.

Joined the New York Cosmos of the North American Football League in 1975. Although well past his prime at the age of 34, Pele briefly raised football’s profile in North America before ending his career in an exhibition game between Cosmos and Santos on October 1, 1977. popularity. Among the dignitaries present, there was perhaps only one athlete of world renown—Muhammad Ali.

Pelé has two illegitimate daughters and five children from two previous marriages, Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi and Acilia Sykes · Lemos (Assiria Seixas Lemos). He later married businesswoman Marcia Sibelle Aoki.

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Azzoni is based in Madrid.

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