Pelé remembered for transcending soccer around world

Dec 28, 2022, 11:53 PM | Updated: Dec 30, 2022, 12:33 pm
FILE - Brazilian soccer great Pele, and English soccer star David Beckham pose for photos during a ...

FILE - Brazilian soccer great Pele, and English soccer star David Beckham pose for photos during a U.S. Soccer Foundation fundraising gala, in New York, March 19, 2008. Pelé, the Brazilian king of soccer who won a record three World Cups and became one of the most commanding sports figures of the last century, died in Sao Paulo on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. He was 82. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow, File)

(AP Photo/Jason DeCrow, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Pelé was remembered for a life beyond the field, for transcending the sport of soccer and becoming perhaps the most well-known person on Earth.

“Before Pelé, ’10´ was just a number,” current Brazil forward Neymar wrote following the soccer great’s death Thursday at the age of 82. “That line, beautiful, is incomplete. I would say that before Pelé soccer was just a sport. Pelé changed everything. He transformed soccer into art, entertainment. He gave voice to the poor, to the Black and above all he gave Brazil visibility. Soccer and Brazil elevated their standing thanks to the King! He is gone, but his magic will endure.”

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

“Today Brazil waves goodbye to one of its most illustrious children,” wrote Romario, a 1994 World Cup champion who used Pelé’s full name in his post. “Edson Arantes do Nascimento made the world bow to his talent and took Brazilian soccer to the altar of gods. Throughout his life, Pelé inspired generations of athletes and deserves every tribute.”

Ronaldo, who led Brazil to a fifth World Cup title in 2002, described Pelé as “Unique. Genius. Skilled. Creative. Perfect. Unmatched.”

“What a privilege to come after you, my friend,” Ronaldo wrote. “Your talent is a school through which every player should go. Your legacy transcends generations. And that is the way you will continue to live.”

Pelé was a revered sports figure to a level probably not comparable to any athlete other than Muhammad Ali. As comfortable mingling with heads of states and celebrities as he was evading defenders, Pelé made an impact in capitals across continents.

“As one of the most recognizable athletes in the world, he understood the power of sports to bring people together,” former U.S. President Barack Obama wrote.

President Joe Biden tweeted: “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.”

Pelé’s greatest impact was in Brazil, a unifying figure celebrated during the 2014 World Cup.

“I saw Pelé play, live, at Pacaembu and Morumbi (stadiums),” former Brazil President and current President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva wrote. “Play, no. I saw Pelé give a show. Because when he got the ball he always did something special, which often ended in a goal. … Few Brazilians took the name of our country as far as he did. As different from Portuguese as one’s language was, foreigners from the four corners of the planet soon found a way to pronounce the magic word: ‘Pelé.'”

For a half-century, people who knew the name of only one soccer player knew Pelé.

“He made people dream and continued to do that with generations and generations of lovers of our sport,” France coach Didier Deschamps said in a statement. “Who, as a child, didn’t dream of being Pelé? … Pelé was the alliance of beauty and efficiency. His talent and his list of achievements will stay engraved in our minds forever.”

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 only 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 exhilaration but he filled hearts and homes with hope and the knowledge that adversity was surmountable,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a statement Friday. “His endurance and impact on the field of play inspired the resilience with which Pelé worked for peace and justice globally.”

When Pelé’s condition worsened last month during the World Cup in Qatar, get well messages were flashed on the sides of buildings in Doha. The English Football Association lit Wembley Stadium’s arch in Brazil’s colors on Wednesday night. FIFA, soccer’s governing body, changed its website’s homepage to photos of Pelé with a black background.

“Pelé did things that no other player would even dream of,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino wrote. “The sight of him punching the air in celebration is one of the most iconic in our sport, and is etched into our history. In fact, because televised football was still in his infancy at the time, we only saw small glimpses of what he was capable of.”

When Pelé played for the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League from 1975-77, he helped spark soccer’s rise in the United States, leading to the nation hosting the World Cup in 1994.

“Pele was truly a remarkable figure — on and off the field,” said FIFA Council member Sunil Gulati, a former U.S. Soccer Federation president. “The world has lost a once in a lifetime sportsman who leaves an extraordinary legacy.”


AP sports: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9), wide receiver Tee Higgins (85) and Cincinnati...
Associated Press

Bengals powered by 3 young stars: Burrow, Chase, Higgins

CINCINNATI (AP) — Joe Burrow says the Cincinnati Bengals’ championship window should stay open for years. “The window is my whole career,” the franchise quarterback said matter-of-factly after the Bengals clinched their second straight AFC North title. His confidence is understandable given the offensive weapons available: Receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins have gained 1,000 […]
1 day ago
San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans speaks at a news conference before an NFL fo...
Associated Press

NFC title game a Philly reunion for 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — DeMeco Ryans’ influence on the NFC championship runs through both locker rooms. Ryans finished his playing career as a linebacker for Philadelphia, earning the nickname “Mufasa” (from “The Lion King”) for the leadership skills that he taught the handful of teammates still on the Eagles that have been carried forward […]
1 day ago
FILE - Alex Hall of the United States, checks the score following his run in the slopestyle finals,...
Associated Press

Winter X daredevils ride fine line between height, happiness

ASPEN, Colo. (AP) — Freestyle skier Alex Hall’s happy place this winter has been sliding down hand rails outside of offices and schools all over Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and other midwestern spots. The steeper and twistier, the better. Last winter, he found happiness at the Beijing Olympics on a run that nobody mistook for […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Georgia: SUV in crash was for recruiting, not personal use

Georgia athletic department officials say the vehicle involved in a crash that killed a football player and employee on Jan. 15 was to be used only for recruiting activities, not personal use. The University of Georgia athletic association provided that information in a statement to The Associated Press on Saturday, saying personal use of the […]
1 day ago
FILE - Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy (15) during an NCAA college football game between Iowa St...
Associated Press

Hurts, Purdy set for college-era rematch in NFC title tilt

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jalen Hurts and Brock Purdy could be primed for a shootout in the NFC championship game. It’s the first time Hurts — the league MVP finalist for the Philadelphia Eagles — and Purdy, the ” Mr. Irrelevant ” rookie sensation for the San Francisco 49ers, have matched up in the NFL. And […]
1 day ago
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pays his respects to victims of a deadly helicopter crash d...
Associated Press

Russia issue looms for Paris Olympics, Zelenskyy rebukes IOC

GENEVA (AP) — The question of if and how Russia competes at the Olympics hangs over the 2024 Paris Summer Games. Just as it has now for five straight Olympics during Thomas Bach’s leadership of the IOC, whose support this week for some Russians to compete in Paris was publicly challenged Friday by Ukrainian President […]
1 day ago
Pelé remembered for transcending soccer around world