Pelé recalls transcending football to the world

NEW YORK (AP) — Pelé is remembered for a life beyond the pitch, for transcending the sport of soccer and becoming perhaps the most famous person on Earth.

« Before Pelé, ’10’ was just a number, » current Brazilian striker Neymar wrote after the footballing great died on Thursday at the age of 82. « This line, beautiful, is incomplete. I would say that before Pelé, football was just a sport. Pelé changed everything. He transformed football into art, into entertainment. He gave voice to the poor, to blacks and above all he gave visibility to Brazil. Football and Brazil have raised their ranks thanks to the King! He is gone, but his magic will continue.

Pelé scored 12 goals in 14 World Cup appearances and is the only three-time world champion, winning titles in 1958, 1962 and 1970. His death was particularly significant for generations of Brazilian players who idolized him.

« Today Brazil says goodbye to one of its most illustrious children, » wrote Romario, a 1994 World Cup champion who used Pele’s full name in his post. « Edson Arantes do Nascimento bent the world before his talent and took Brazilian football to the altar of the gods. Throughout his life, Pelé inspired generations of athletes and deserves all the tributes.

Ronaldo, who led Brazil to a fifth World Cup title in 2002, described Pelé as « Unique. Genius. Skilled. Creative. Perfect. Incomparable. »

« What a privilege to follow you my friend, » Ronaldo wrote. « Your talent is a school that every player should go through. Your legacy transcends generations. And that’s how you will live on.

Pelé was a revered sports figure on a level probably not comparable to an athlete other than Muhammad Ali. As comfortable mingling with heads of state and celebrities as he evaded advocates, Pelé has made an impact in capitals across continents.

« As one of the most recognizable athletes in the world, he understood the power of sport to bring people together, » wrote former US President Barack Obama.

President Joe Biden tweeted« For a sport that brings the world together like no other, Pele’s rise from humble beginnings to footballing legend is a story of what is possible. »

Pele’s biggest impact was in Brazil, a unifying figure celebrated at the 2014 World Cup.

« I saw Pelé play, live, at Pacaembu and Morumbi (stadiums) », former president of Brazil and current president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva wrote. “Play, no. I saw Pelé give a show. Because when he received the ball he always did something special, which often ended in a goal. … Few Brazilians have carried the name of our country as far as he does. As different from Portuguese as the language was, foreigners from all over the world quickly found a way to pronounce the magic word: “Pelé”.

For half a century, people who knew the name of a single footballer knew Pelé.

« He made people dream and continued to do so with generations and generations of lovers of our sport, » French coach Didier Deschamps said in a statement. “Who, child, did not dream of being Pelé? …Pelé was the alliance of beauty and efficiency. His talent and his track record will remain forever etched in our memories.

French soccer star Kylian Mbappé tied Pelé for sixth in career World Cup goals with a hat trick in this month’s loss to Argentina in the final. Four years ago, Mbappé became just the second teenager – after Pelé – to score a goal in a World Cup final.

« The king of football has left us but his legacy will never be forgotten, » Mbappé wrote.

« Pelé not only filled football stadiums with elation, but he filled hearts and homes with hope and the realization that adversity was surmountable, » South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a statement on Friday. communicated. « His stamina and impact on the playing field inspired the resilience with which Pelé worked for peace and justice around the world. »

When Pele’s condition worsened last month during the World Cup in Qatar, recovery messages were posted on the facades of buildings in Doha. The English Football Association lit up the arch at Wembley Stadium in the colors of Brazil on Wednesday night. FIFA, football’s governing body, has changed its website’s homepage to show pictures of Pelé against a black background.

« Pelé has done things no other player would dream of, » wrote FIFA President Gianni Infantino. « Seeing him hit the air in celebration is one of the most iconic of our sport and is etched in our history. In fact, because televised football was still in its infancy at the time, we only saw only small glimpses of what he was capable of.

When Pelé played for the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League from 1975 to 1977, he helped boost soccer in the United States, which led to the country hosting the World Cup in 1994. .

« Pelé was truly a remarkable figure – on and off the pitch, » said Sunil Gulati, a member of the FIFA Council and former president of the USA Football Federation. « The world has lost a once-in-a-lifetime sportsman who leaves an extraordinary legacy. »


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Ronald Blum, The Associated Press


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