The Brazilian played football barefoot as a child and rose to become a virtuoso universally regarded as one of the best.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento, who came to be known as Pele and one of the greatest and most popular footballers in the world, died on Thursday after a long battle with cancer. He was 82.
Born in Tres Coracoes, in the state of Minas Gerais, in 1940, Pele grew up in poverty. His parents could not even afford a football. An old sock filled with newspapers was the first “ball” his magical feet kicked but it was enough for him to fall in love with the game – and for people to start noticing he was different.
His unmatched skill ensured that he scored two goals in the 1958 World Cup final to lead Brazil to victory over Sweden. He was just 17.
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Pele, who is credited with coining the phrase “the beautiful game” to refer to football, helped his Brazil win the World Cup also in 1962 and 1970.
In addition to skills and charisma, a certain mysticism always surrounded the character of the king of football.
One of his many famous quotes, made at the last match he ever played in 1977 in New York, was honouring children and with his limited English, he just said “love, love, love”.
Brazil’s outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro has declared three days of mourning for the nation to grieve Pele’s death.
His funeral will be held at the Vila Belmiro stadium, outside Sao Paulo, where Pele played some of the best matches of his career.
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