Is Pele Dead? Let’s Celebrate His Life

Is Pele Dead

Pele is widely considered to be among the greatest football players of all time, and for many, quite literally the greatest player of all time. As per the Guinness Book Of World Records, Pele is the highest goal scorer in the history of football with 1281 goals. However, some of those goals might’ve been scored during friendly matches. As per FIFA’s official records, Pele is the third highest goal scorer of all time with 762 goals, behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. 

Either way, the Brazilian goal machine is a legend of the sport and is sadly on his deathbed. In this post, we will find out more about his current condition and take a look at his glorious football career as well.

Pele: The King Of Football

Is Pele dying?

Pele, the legendary Brazilian footballer has been suffering from colon cancer for over a year. While he was quite stable over the year, his cancer worsened over the last few weeks. Pele is admitted to Sao Paulo’s Albert Einstein Hospital and undergoing treatment. His cancer progression has been compounded by his kidney and heart issues.

What did Pele’s daughter say about his condition?

Kely Nascimento, one of Pele’s daughters, shared the dreadful news about Pele being admitted to the hospital and how the entire family was going to be with him during Christmas. Doctors evaluated Pele’s condition and determined that it was better for him to stay admitted in the hospital.

What happened to Pele’s cancer?

In September 2021, Pele’s cancer was surgically removed from his large intestines. However, the cancer was later found in his liver and lungs as well. Pele was initially responding well to chemotherapy but eventually stopped responding and had to be transferred to palliative care. Pele’s daughter shared a very emotional picture online and said “We are still struggling and keeping our faith. One more night together.” 

Who is Pele?

Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known as Pele, is a former Brazilian sportsman, considered the greatest player in the history of football, a world sports personality and popularly called the King of Football. He was born in the city of Três Corações, in Minas Gerais, on October 23, 1940. He is the son of João Ramos do Nascimento (also a former soccer player, known as Dondinho) and Celeste Arantes do Nascimento.

Where did Pele grow up?

At the age of four, Edson and his family moved to Bauru, in São Paulo. At that time, he was called Dico by his family and Edson by his friends. His father named him Edson after Thomas Edison. When Pele was born, the power came back in the building and that’s why his father named him Edson. Influenced by his father, Dico was always a football fan and soon started to be part of the boys’ teams that played in the streets of Bauru. He liked to play in front of the goal, inspired by goalkeeper José Lino da Conceição Faustino, Bilé, a friend of his father’s team, Vasco de São Lourenço (Minas Gerais).

As Edson could not pronounce the name Bilé correctly, during games with his friends, he would say something similar to “ Seguuura, Pilééé!”, when he made his saves. The fact made his friends start calling him Pelé. He didn’t like that, and that’s when the nickname stuck with his friends.

In addition to football games, during childhood, the boy helped the family as he could. The father was injured and did not continue to play football, which left the family in difficulties. To contribute to the family income, Pelé worked as a shoeshine boy in Bauru.

How did Pele start his football career?

A highlight of games on the streets of Bauru, Pelé played for some amateur teams during his childhood, and, at the age of 11, the player Waldemar de Brito discovered him and invited him to the team he was forming: Clube Atlético de Bauru. A few years later, Waldemar noticed Pelé’s enormous talent and decided to take him to a bigger team, Santos Futebol Clube.


In 1956, Pelé arrived at Santos as a promise from Waldemar de Brito, who, according to information on Santos’ official website, told the club: “This boy is going to be the best football player in the world!”. A month after his arrival at the club, the youngster made his first appearance for the professional team. The game was against Corinthians de Santo André, and Santos won 7-1. Pelé entered the second half of the match and scored the sixth goal.

Pelé began to be recognized nationally at the age of 16. In 1957, the boy was already a starter for Santos and was the top scorer in the Campeonato Paulista, the youngest to date, scoring 36 goals. The King of Football played for most of his career at Santos, between 1956 and 1974. During that period, he led the club to win ten state titles and six national championships (Taça Brasil and Torneio Robertão), in addition to two Libertadores Cups and two World Cups of Clubs, in 1962 and 1963.

In Libertadores, at the time still known as Copa Champions of America, Santos, with one of the best teams of all time, known as Balé Branco and led by Pelé, attracted international attention to the tournament. In 1962, the team beat the then two-time champion Peñarol, from Uruguay, in the final and was the first Brazilian team to secure the title in the competition. In 1963, Pelé had the support of Coutinho to win the tournament again, but this time against Boca Juniors, from Argentina.

Also at Santos, in 1969, Pelé scored his thousandth goal. The feat occurred in a match against Vasco, in Maracanã, and was accomplished with a penalty kick.

Pelé said goodbye to Santos on October 2, 1974. At the Vila Belmiro stadium, the Santos team faced Ponte Preta. That day, Pelé knelt on the field, with his arms open and the ball in front of him, to say goodbye to the club asking for forgiveness, since he would be transferred to the New York Cosmos after years of insistence by the United States team to hire it. For Santos, Pelé appeared in 1116 games and scored 1091 goals.

Brazilian National Team

Ten months after Pelé was signed by Santos, the 16 year old was called up by the Brazilian national team for the first time to compete in the Copa Roca (currently known as Superclássico das Américas). The competition was a friendly tournament between the Brazilian national team and the Argentine national team.

Both matches were held in Brazil. The first marked Pelé’s debut with Brazil’s shirt and was held at Maracanã. Argentina won 2-1, but the Brazilian goal was scored by Pelé. In the second leg, at Estádio do Pacaembu, Brazil won 2-0, with a goal by Pelé and another by Mazzola. It was Pelé’s first title for the Brazilian national team.

Why is Pele called the King Of Football?

Pelé is, to date, the youngest player to win a Football World Cup. At just 17 years and 8 months, Pelé was the world champion in 1958, in Sweden. He scored six goals in his first World Cup and was Brazil’s top scorer. In that edition, Pelé was called the King of Football by the French media.

How did Pele score his first goal for Brazil?

Pelé’s first goal in a World Cup was against Wales, in the quarter-finals of the 1958 World Cup. The feat gave Pelé the record of the youngest player to score a goal in a World Cup.

Pelé scored four goals in the Mexico Cup, including the first in the final against Italy. Brazil won by 4-1 and won its third straight championship. In that Cup, the top scorer was Jairzinho, with seven goals.

While representing the Brazilian national team, Pelé also became the only player in history to be a triple world champion (1958, 1962 and 1970). He scored 95 goals for Brazil and is still the men’s top scorer. Pelé played his last game for the Brazilian national team in July 1971, at Maracanã, in a friendly against Yugoslavia.

New York Cosmos

After 18 years playing for Santos and the Brazilian national team, Pelé signed a contract with the New York Cosmos team, from the United States, to play the 1975 season. The player’s arrival in the North American country was seen as an influence to awaken the interest of the country’s population in football. Even though the USA was a giant market for sports, most of the country’s population mainly watched the NFL and the NBA.

Years later, in a publication made on his social networks, Pelé told how he was convinced to accept the Cosmos’ invitation. “Cosmos coach Clive Toye said to me. ‘You can go to Spain or Italy and win a title, but you can come to the Cosmos and win a country.’ What a great experience this was.” 

The beginning in the United States was complicated for Pelé since the team was still a little weak and the country did not have the tradition of soccer. In 1976, other legendary players like Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia arrived to reinforce the Cosmos, helping Pelé to be elected the Most Valuable Player of the League. In 1977, Carlos Alberto Torres also joined the team. Together, Pelé and Torres were champions of the North American Soccer League (NASL) Championship.

At Cosmos, between official and friendly matches, Pelé played 106 matches and scored 64 goals. Pelé’s arrival on the team also increased the number of people who watched the Cosmos play. The number that was 3,578 people per game in 1974, increased to 10,450 (1975), 18,227 (1976) and 34,142 (1977). With that, the team that played at Downing Stadium ended up moving, in 1976, to Yankee Stadium and, in the other season, to the Giants – baseball and American football stadiums, respectively.

Pelé’s passage had the effect that the North Americans were looking for. The USA national team returned to the World Cup in 1990, breaking a 40-year drought, and the country hosted the World Cup in 1994.

When did Pele retire?

Pelé said goodbye to football in 1977 in a Cosmos game against Santos, in the United States. The match was attended by artists, politicians and world personalities. The King of Football played the first half of the match wearing the Cosmos jersey and the second half wearing the Santos jersey. According to the Guinness Book (Book of Records), Pelé scored 1281 goals in his career, becoming the greatest scorer in the history of football (as per FIFA’s official records, Cristiano Ronaldo has the most number of goals though).

Pele: Personal Life And Numerous Children With Numerous Women

The son of Dondinho and Dona Celeste had a brother, Jair Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Zoca. The brother is Pelé’s right hand man helping the King to take care of his business and his career. In his personal life, Pelé had relationships with some celebrities and was married three times. His first marriage lasted from 1966 to 1978, with Rosemari de Reis Cholbicon, and produced three children: Kelly Cristina, Jennifer and Edson.

His son Edson, known as Edinho, followed his father’s career and became a goalkeeper for Santos in the 1990s. After retiring, he became involved in drug trafficking and money laundering, which earned him a 12-year prison sentence.

In 1991, Pelé found out that he had another daughter, Sandra Regina, the result of a relationship with his maid Anísia Machado in 1964. Sandra had to go to court to be recognized by Pelé, which happened only in 1996. After DNA tests and several court fights, Sandra Regina received the surname Arantes do Nascimento.

Sandra died in 2006. She had breast cancer. Sandra’s two sons, Octávio and Gabriel, aged 15 and 13 at the time, won the right to receive a pension from their grandfather in court. The amount stipulated to be equivalent to seven times the minimum wage for each grandchild.

Pelé’s second marriage, in 1994, was with the gospel singer Assíria Lemos Seixas and lasted until 2008. From his marriage with Seixas, Pele had the twins Celeste and Joshua. Pelé is currently married to Marcia Cibele Aoki, whom he met in 2008 during an event in New York and with whom he made their relationship official in 2016. The two do not have children together.

Outside of marriage, Pelé had a relationship with journalist Lenita Kurtz, with whom he had a daughter, Flávia Kurtz. Between 1981 and 1986, the former player maintained a relationship with presenter Xuxa Meneghel. Three years later, he also had a relationship with former Miss Brazil Flávia Cavalcanti.

Which degree does Pele hold?

Pelé holds a degree in Physical Education from the Metropolitan University of Santos (UNMES). He entered the university in 1970 , when he was already considered the best player in the world. The course was the first in the area with a degree in Brazil.

Did Pele serve in the Brazilian military?

Already recognized worldwide, a world champion with the Brazilian national team in 1958, Pelé divided his time between football and military service. At the age of 18, he enlisted and served in the Brazilian Army in the 6th Grupo de Artilharia de Costa Motorizado, in Praia Grande / SP, and began to be called Soldado 201 Nascimento.

During the period, Pelé was the number 10 in the Armed Forces Selection and even faced the Brazilian Olympic Team, which was preparing for the Rome Olympics, in 1960. The match in which Pelé played took place at Estádio das Laranjeiras, in Rio de Janeiro. Janeiro, and the Army team won 2-1, but Pelé did not score a goal that day.

Biafran War

A clash between two ethnic groups in Nigeria (Ibo and Hausa) caused one of the most dramatic events in Africa: the Biafran War, with more than 2 million dead. This civil war started in 1967 and lasted until 1970.

In the middle of this period, in 1969, the Santos team, with Pelé, went to Africa on a tour with friendly matches. At the invitation of the local government, Santos went to Nigeria to play a friendly match with Benin City. In order for the team to reach Ogbe Stadium safely, the Nigerian government declared a ceasefire.

In that match, Pelé’s team won 2-1. With the return of the Santos team to Brazil, the war continued. On the tour, Santos played nine games, had five wins, three draws and one defeat. 19 goals were scored, and Pelé was the top scorer with eight goals scored.

Pele the politician

After retiring from football, in the first government of former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Pelé was appointed Minister of Sports. He held the position from 1995 to 1998, when he created the Pelé Law, which revolutionized sports in the country.

The Pelé Law was intended to offer more transparency and bring more professionalism to the national sport. With that, there was the end of the pass in soccer clubs in Brazil and the transformation of clubs into companies. The law also created funds for Olympic and Paralympic sport and determined the independence of the Courts of Sports Justice.

Were Pele and Maradona rivals?

Brazil and Argentina star in one of the biggest rivalries in world football. This opposition is also reflected in the discussion of who is the greatest football player of all time: Pelé or Diego Maradona? Despite the fact that the two did not play at the same time – Maradona played between 1976 and 1997, the discussion persists between fans of both countries.

However, this “fight” only exists between the fans. Pelé and Maradona met for the first time in 1979, when Pelé had retired and was already considered the King of Football, while the Argentine was at the beginning of his career. Years later, they met again at events and maintained a friendly relationship till Maradona’s death.

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