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    Brazilian football legend Pelé dead at 82

     

    An image of Brazilian football legend Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known as Pele, whose death was announced earlier in the day, is displayed on the facade of the headquarters of Conmebol, the South American Football Confederation, in Luque, Paraguay. PHOTO:AFP

    SAO PAULO (AFP) – Brazilian football icon Pele, a three-time World Cup winner who is widely regarded as the greatest player of all time, died on Thursday at 82 – triggering a wave of tributes from the sports world and beyond.

    His death after a long battle with cancer was caused by “multiple organ failure”, the Albert Einstein hospital in Sao Paulo said in a statement, confirming the news from the legend’s family.

    “We love you infinitely. Rest in peace,” daughter Kely Nascimento wrote on Instagram.

    The football world – from his former teammates to current stars – came together to honour “O Rei” (The King), who transformed the sport during a long professional career that began when he was still a teenager.

    Brazil star Neymar said Pele “transformed football into an art”, France’s Kylian Mbappe said his legacy “will never be forgotten”, and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo called him an “inspiration to million”.

    Argentina’s World Cup-winning captain Lionel Messi simply wrote: “Rest in peace”.

    Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro declared three days of national mourning, while president-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is due to take office Sunday, tweeted: “Thank you, Pele”.

    Pele is the only footballer in history to have won three World Cups – in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

    He scored a record 1,281 goals in 1,363 matches during a 21-year career.

    He had been in increasingly fragile health, battling kidney problems and colon cancer – undergoing surgery in September 2021, followed by chemotherapy.

    A wake will take place on Monday, followed by a funeral on Tuesday in Santos, the southeastern city where he played most of his career, his former club said.

    The city declared seven days of mourning as fans flocked to the team’s stadium to leave flowers.

    Emotional Brazilians also descended on the hospital where Pele died – even running 1.5 kilometres (almost a mile) to get there, in the case of Antonio Perera, 46, and his son Luis Eduardo, 12.

    “He’s our greatest idol, the greatest footballer of all time,” Perera told AFP.

    In a testament to Pele’s influence, international figures, including United States President Joe Biden and former leader Barack Obama, Brazilian music legends Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, and International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach also paid tribute.

    “As one of the most recognisable athletes in the world, he understood the power of sports to bring people together,” Obama wrote.

    Amir Hasan, visiting from Denmark, uses table salt to draw a tribute to the late football legend Pelé. PHOTO: AP
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