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Neymar: Pelé turned football into art

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Pele signs multi-million dollar contract with New York Cosmos in Hamilton, Bermuda, in June 1975. Pele is alongside Jay Emmett, executive vice-president of Warner Communications, and Ann Snider

The worlds of sport and politics aligned yesterday to pay tribute to Pelé, who died of colon cancer at the age of 82.

Regarded as one of the best players of all-time, in 1999, he was named Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee and was included in the Time list of the 100 most important people of the 20th century.

Pele, whose given name was Edson Arantes do Nascimento, scored 1,279 goals in 1,363 games, including friendlies, which is recognised as a Guinness World Record.

Pelé has died at the age of 82

He began playing for Santos aged 15 and went on to win the World Cup three times in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

President-elect of Brazil Lula, said: “I had the privilege that younger Brazilians didn’t have: I saw Pelé play. Play, no. I saw Pelé give a show. Because when he got the ball he always did something special, which often ended up in a goal.

Pele and the New York Cosmos. Bermuda's Sam Nusum is third from right in the back row

Brazil’s best player now is widely regarded to be Neymar and he added his thoughts upon hearing the news.

“Before Pelé, “10” was just a number.” he said.

I read that phrase somewhere, at some point in my life. But that phrase, beautiful, is incomplete. I’d say before Pelé football was just a sport.

Neymar remembers: Neymar underlined just how important Pelé is to Brazil (Photograph by Frank Augstein/AP)

“Pelé changed everything. He turned football into art, into entertainment. He gave voice to the poor, to the blacks and he gave visibility to Brazil.

“Football and Brazil have elevated their status thanks to the King. He’s gone, but his magic will remain. Pele is eternal.

Portugal striker Cristiano Ronaldo took to Instagram to pay his tribute.

“My deepest condolences to all of Brazil, and in particular to the family of Mr. Edson Arantes do Nascimento,” Ronaldo said.

“A mere “goodbye” to the eternal King Pelé will never be enough to express the pain that embraces the whole world of football at this moment. An inspiration for so many millions, a reference of yesterday, of today, of always.

“The affection he always showed for me was reciprocated in all the moments we shared, even at a distance. He will never be forgotten and his memory will last forever in each one of us, football lovers. Rest in peace, King Pelé.”

Cristiano Ronaldo led tributes to Pelé

One of the best young players in the world, France striker Kylian Mbappe was keen to share his thoughts.

“The king of football has left us but his legacy will never be forgotten. RIP King, Mbappe said.

Rivaldo won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002 and told of how Pele inspired him.

“I am grateful to God that Pelé is Brazilian,” he said.

“Our football is known and respected worldwide for everything he did on the pitch and this will never be forgotten. I am proud to have played in two World Cups with the number 10, which was consecrated by him.

“King Pelé, your legacy is eternal. May God bless and comfort the hearts of the family. Rest in Peace, King Pelé.”

One of Europe’s most feared strikers, Poland forward Robert Lewandowski said: “Rest in peace Champion. Heaven has a new star, and the football world lost a hero.

Brazilian forward Richarlison scored for Brazil in the recent World Cup.

“Today football bids farewell to its most beautiful chapter. Of the guy who enchanted the world and changed the history of the game forever. You will always be the greatest because 60 years ago, with all the difficulties you faced, you were already doing what very few can do today,” he said.

Spanish Club Barcelona released a statement, which read: “ Barca deeply regrets the death of “Rei” Pele, one of the greatest players of all time. With him, football became greater. May he rest in peace.”

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Published December 30, 2022 at 2:51 pm (Updated December 30, 2022 at 2:51 pm)

Neymar: Pelé turned football into art

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