The loss of a legend. Iconic soccer star Pelé, widely considered to be the greatest player of all time, died on Thursday, December 29, after a battle with colon cancer. He was 82.
“Inspiration and love marked the journey of King Pele, who peacefully passed away today,” a statement on the Brazilian athlete’s Instagram account read on Thursday. “On his journey, [Pelé] enchanted the world with his genius in sport, stopped a war, carried out social works all over the world and spread what he most believed to be the cure for all our problems: love. His message today becomes a legacy for future generations. Love, love and love, forever.”
Per a statement from Sao Paulo’s Albert Einstein hospital, where Pelé was undergoing treatment for his health issues, the beloved athlete died at 3:27 p.m. local time “due to multiple organ failures resulting from the progression of colon cancer associated with his previous medical condition.”
Tributes to the late sports hero immediately poured in on social media upon the news of his death.
“All that we are is thanks to you,” Pelé’s daughter Kely Nascimento wrote via Instagram in Portuguese. “We love you infinitely. Rest in peace.”
Pelé’s fellow soccer legends Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi also paid tribute to the sports idol.
“My deep condolences to all of Brazil, and in particular to [Pelé’s] family. A mere ‘goodbye’ to the eternal King Pelé will never be enough to express the pain that the entire football world is currently embracing,” the Portugal captain wrote via Instagram on Thursday in his native Portuguese. “An inspiration to so many millions, a reference yesterday, today and forever. The love you always showed me was reciprocated in every moment we shared even from distance. He will never be forgotten and his memory will live forever in each and every one of us football lovers. Rest in peace King Pelé 🙏🏽⚽️🇧🇷.”
Messi, for his part, honored the King with several photos of them together. “Rest in peace @pele,” the 2022 World Cup Champion wrote via Instagram.
Olympian Usain Bolt shared a photo of him and the soccer great via Twitter. “A Sporting Legend. Rest in Peace King Pele 🕊️,” the iconic runner wrote on Thursday.
“Rest in peace Pele, one of the greatest ever,” tweeted Manchester United star Harry Maguire. “What a role model on and off the pitch. Winner of 3 World Cups, unbelievable 🙏🏼❤️🇧🇷 #pele.”
Pelé made history as the only athlete to win three World Cup tournaments — he led Brazil to victory in 1956, 1962 and 1970 — and was known all over the world for his incredible athleticism.
In 1962, a two-day cease-fire was declared in Nigeria amid their civil war in order for both sides of the fight to see Pelé play in a match in their country.
More than two decades later, when meeting President Ronald Reagan at the White House in 1986, Pelé needed no introduction, the POTUS joked at the time.
“I remember this meeting well,” the soccer champion recalled via Instagram in December 2018, alongside a photo of him kicking a soccer ball in front of the then-president. “He said to me, ‘My name is Ronald Reagan, I’m the President of the United States of America. But you don’t need to introduce yourself, because everyone knows who Pelé is.’ 😀.”
Per Pelé’s obituary in The New York Times, Andy Warhol even once credited the pop culture icon for being “one of the few who contradicted my theory. Instead of 15 minutes of fame, he will have 15 centuries.”