Pele: First global icon of ‘the beautiful game’ takes final kick

HE auctioned his sporting memorabilia to raise millions for charity and founded the Pele Foundation to empower impoverished and disenfranchised children from around the world.

Even as recently as June, six months before his death, an ailing Pele found time to publish an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Instagram appealing for an end to the ‘evil’ and ‘unjustified’ invasion of Ukraine.

On the field, he scored a world record 1,281 goals, and was Brazil’s all-time national team top scorer with 77 goals from 92 games until last month when Neymar surpassed him at the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

He made 700 club appearances and scored 655 club goals, most of them for Santos, who he transformed from a little-known club into one of the world’s most famous teams.

In 18 glorious years at Santos, Pele won several Brazilian titles as well as two Copa Libertadores — the South American version of the UEFA Champions League — and two Intercontinental Cups, the annual tournament held between the best teams in Europe and South America.

He was the man who could do everything: dribble, make incisive passes, tackle, leap high to score headers (despite his small size) and score goals by the boatloads.

Despite his health challenges, including hip surgery, an operation to remove kidney stones and the colon cancer that ultimately took him home, Pele lived a fulfilled life.

He will be remembered as the man who dedicated most of his life to bringing happiness to others while he performed miracles on the pitch with a big smile on his face.

In the days, months, years and decades after his death on the night of December 29, 2022 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Pele will be celebrated by his seven children and grandchildren, his wives past and present, his friends, millions of Brazilians and hundreds of millions of football lovers all over the world.

With dedication to his craft and love in his heart, Pele deserves every accolade he will undoubtedly be given.

The Twitter post from his official account that announced Pele’s passing captures the essence of the man.

It says: “Inspiration and love marked the journey of King Pelé, who peacefully passed away today. Love, love, and love, forever.”

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