After a long bout with colon cancer, Brazilian football legend Pelé died on Thursday at the age of 82. As one of the most prolific talents in the history of the “beautiful game,” Pelé is still referred to as the “king of football.” Pelé’s transcendent talent transcended the globe and generations later is still regarded as the gold standard for the sport he dominated for two decades.
Pelé’s debut at the 1958 World Cup at the age of 17 culminated with the phenom scoring two goals in Brazil’s 5-2 victory over host country Sweden in the Final. In his prime, Pelé was a catalyst for three World Cup winning national clubs and still remains the top goalscorer for the hallowed Brazilian side, scoring 77 times in 92 appearances. Brazil’s 1970 World Cup victory ended with the now-iconic image of the sport’s biggest champion being carried off the pitch on teammates’ shoulders.
Pelé spent most of his domestic career for the Brazilian club Santos FC, registering 1,091 goals and leading them to 21 titles. In his twilight years, Pelé became the highest-paid athlete in the world when he signed with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League in 1975, earned the 1976 NASL MVP and ignited America’s dormant interest in football. Rumors circulated that Pelé was in hospice during the World Cup, however, those rumors were refuted by his family. This time, his death was confirmed by his agent Joe Fraga.
Meanwhile, the sports world reacted immediately to the news of Pelé’s death: