The world of football is mourning the death of Brazilian football legend Pele.

He died at the age of 82 on Dec. 29 after a lengthy battle with cancer from “multiple organ failure," the hospital in Sao Paulo where he was treated said in a statement.

Brazil, where football is popular in every stratum of society, will mourn its favorite son for three days.

"We love you infinitely. Rest in peace," daughter Kely Nascimento wrote on Instagram. Current Brazil star Neymar said Pele "transformed football into an art." France's Kylian Mbappe said his legacy "will never be forgotten," and Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo called him an "inspiration to millions." 

President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is due to take office on Jan. 1, tweeted: "Thank you, Pele."

Pele's skill and electrifying speed were coupled with deadly accuracy in front of goal.


He was the first global football star and played a lead role in making the game a sporting and commercial powerhouse.

With the increasing commercialization and coverage of the sport (and sponsorship deals with sports footwear producers) he became a global sporting icon.

He will continue to be a national hero in his native land. After all, he is the only player in history to win the World Cup three times and the youngest player ever to do so. He scored a world record 1,281 goals in 1,363 matches during a career that spanned 21 years.

Off the field he campaigned to improve conditions for the most deprived people in Brazilian society.

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For people in Ukraine, civilians and military personnel alike, fighting courageously for their future, he was a friend too.

Back in the summer, on Sunday, June 5 to be precise, the day the national teams of Wales and Ukraine played for the right to appear at the World Cup in Qatar, Pele wrote an impassioned open letter to Vladimir Putin urging him to halt his savage, unprovoked war on Ukraine.

Pele knew Putin personally. Brazil had hosted the World Cup in 2014 and Putin was there in person at the final in Rio.


"There is absolutely no justification for this continued violence…When we met in the past and exchanged smiles accompanied by a long handshake, I never thought that one day we would be as divided as we are right now," wrote Pele.

We are publishing Pele’s open letter below.


Football fans can argue about who the best player in the world is right now: Ronaldo or recent World Cup winner Messi? And the last few years have seen the passing of two footballing greats, Dutch maestro Johan Cruyff and Argentine Diego Maradona.

But we are, after all, talking about exuberant Pele, the King of football. Regarded by generations of lovers of the beautiful game that is football, as the best ever.

And Ukrainians will remember with gratitude that only very recently the soccer Maestro also stood up for Ukraine in its hour of need and showed Russia and Putin the red card.



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