Brazilian football icon Pelé, widely regarded as the greatest player of all time and a three-time World Cup winner who masterminded the “beautiful game,” passed away on 29 December 2022 at the age of 82.
Pelé’s biological name was Edson Arantesdo Nascimento.
He had been in increasingly fragile health, battling kidney problems and colon cancer – undergoing surgery for the latter in September 2021, followed by chemotherapy.
The late icon became the only footballer to win three World Cups and was then declared a national treasure by the Brazilian government in 1962.
With at least 700 clubs’ appearance, 655 club goals, 92 international goals and as a 3-time football World Cup Champion, Pelé played a major role in Africa’s sports and political affairs.
United States of America, President Joe Biden said: “Before there was Messi, Ronaldo and Beckham, there was Pelé. For a sport that brings the world together like no other, Pelé’s rise from humble beginnings to soccer legend is a story of what is possible.”
Nicknamed “O Rei” (The King), Pelé scored more than 1 000 goals in one of the most storied careers in sport, before retiring in 1977.
A sports journalist from Ghana told the Voice of America, that Africa has lost their role model and inspiration.
Owaraku Ampofu said,” Overall, it is much more of a shock and appreciation here in Ghana especially for what the legend has done for football, not just in Brazil but then his contribution globally.”
When Ghana won the African Cup in the 1960/70s it was likened to Brazil until today the Ghana’s football team is well known as the Brazil of Africa.
Pelé who along with his team, Santos travelled to Africa, facing African teams in Mozambique, Algeria, Ghana and in Nigeria where Pele managed to silence guns for 48hours.
As the two warring factions of Nigeria agreed that a 48hour ceasefire should be made during a civil war in Nigeria. For the sake of the match which was played between Santos and the Green Eagles of Nigeria.
Soldiers from the two sides attended the event with guns in their hands to protect the spectators during the soccer match which ended as a draw, in which Pelé scored two goals for his team. Many viewed it as a beautiful game that had albeit temporarily united people of different background.
But beyond his records, he will be remembered for revolutionizing the sport, his ever-present number 10 on his back.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has declared three days of national mourning for Pelé.
In Zurich, Switzerland, at the headquarters of FIFA, the world’s football governing body, the flags of all member nations were lowered to half-staff on Friday in honour of Pele.