Dec 29 (Reuters) – Pele, the magical Brazilian soccer star who rose from barefoot poverty to become one of the greatest and best-known athletes in modern history, died at the age of 82, his daughter said on Instagram on Thursday.
He had been in and out of hospital in recent months after a tumor was found on his colon.
Pele, whose given name was Edson Arantes do Nascimento, scored a world record 1,281 goals, and is the only player ever to win the World Cup three times.
With sublime skills and a winning smile, he helped make soccer the world’s most popular sport and he charmed popes, presidents and Hollywood stars in a seven-decade career as player and ambassador for the sport.
Born on Oct. 23, 1940, in the small Minas Gerais town of Tres Corações, or “Three Hearts”, Edson Arantes do Nascimento learned the game from his father, a semi-professional player whose promising career was derailed by a knee injury.
Several aspects of his youth are obscured by myth, including the origin of his famous nickname.
As Pele (sometimes) told it, he often played as goalkeeper in neighborhood games, and kids began comparing him to a local player named “Bile” – and the letters got twisted over the years.
Whatever the truth, he was soon dazzling scouts not as a goalkeeper but as an attacking forward – a prototype number 10.