Pelé leaves behind a legacy “impossible to describe in words” but FIFA president Gianni Infantino believes the great Brazilian has “achieved immortality” since his death on Thursday.
Israel’s Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo has confirmed that the cause of death of the three-time World Cup winner, considered by many to be the greatest footballer of all time, was multiple organ failure.
The Santos legend was battling colon cancer and his family went to see him in early December after he was transferred to palliative care when his body stopped responding to treatment.
The likes of Lionel Messi, Ronaldo Nazario and Cristiano Ronaldo paid tribute to the 82-year-old before Infantino joined a host of players, clubs and sports organizations to share his good memories.
“For everyone who loves a beautiful game, this is the day we never wanted. The day we lost Pele,” Infantino wrote in a statement released by FIFA.
“Oh Ray” [The King] was unique in many ways. He was the only player to win the World Cup three times, and his skill and imagination were incomparable.
“Pelé did things that no other player even dreamed of, like the famous dummy in the 1970 World Cup semi-finals, which became known as Pelé’s run-in.
“Or the goal he scored in the 1958 World Cup final at the age of 17, when he threw the ball over a defender and hit the net.
“The sight of him punching the air in celebration is one of the most iconic in our sport and is etched in our history.
“In fact, since televised football was still in its infancy at the time, we only saw small glimpses of what it was capable of.”
A legacy that will live forever
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) December 29, 2022
Pelé, who scored 643 goals in 659 matches for Santos over an 18-year period, helped Brazil achieve World Cup success in 1958, 1962 and 1970 – no player in the history of the tournament has won it more often.
He remains the youngest player ever to win the competition and the youngest player to score in the final after achieving the extraordinary feat at just 17 years and 249 days old.
His 77 caps are still a Brazilian record despite Neymar equaling the benchmark in Qatar with a strike in the quarter-final against Croatia, leading Infantino to hail Pelé’s legacy.
“The most important thing is that the “King” ascended the throne with a smile on his face. In those days, football could be brutal and Pelé was often subjected to rough treatment,” he continued.
“But, although he knew how to stand up for himself, he was always an exemplary athlete, with sincere respect for his opponents. I had the great honor of meeting him several times.
“Moments spent with him will forever remain in my memory and in my heart. Pele had a magnetic presence and when you were with him, the rest of the world stopped.
“His life is more than football. He changed perceptions for the better in Brazil, South America and around the world. His legacy cannot be described in words.
“To family and friends, CBF [the Brazilian Football Confederation]To Brazil and to all football fans who loved it so much, I express my sincere condolences.
“Today we all mourn the loss of the physical presence of our dear Pele, but he has long since reached immortality and therefore he will be with us forever.”