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Pelé, Soccer Legend and Musician, Dies at 82

El Gráfico, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Following a long battle with colon cancer, Pelé, who rose from the slums of Brazil to become the man many fans regard as the greatest soccer player to ever take to the pitch, died Thursday. He was 82.

His official Instagram page confirmed his passing.

"Inspiration and love marked the journey of King Pelé, who peacefully passed away today," it captioned a black-and-white photo of the icon dressed in a suit and flashing his familiar smile. "On his journey, Edson enchanted the world with his genius in sport, stopped a war, carried out social works all over the world and spread what he most believed to be the cure for all our problems: love."

The news he died of multiple organ failure because of cancer was not altogether surprising. Pelé had undergone treatment for colon cancer since 2021 and had been hospitalized since November, but that did not stop it from sending tremors across the sports world and beyond.

Fellow Brazilian soccer star, and one of the few players worthy of being mentioned in the same circles when it comes to greatness in the sport, Neymar said Pelé changed everything.

"He transformed football into art, entertainment,” the legend wrote on Instagram. “Football and Brazil elevated their standing thanks to the King! He is gone, but his magic will endure. Pelé is eternal!”

Former president Barack Obama shared a picture of himself with Pelé on Twitter alongside a touching tribute to the man he called "one of the greatest to ever play the beautiful game."

"He understood the power of sports to bring people together," Obama wrote. "Our thoughts are with his family and everyone who loved and admired him."

Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pelé was one of the most dominant forwards to ever play.

He made his debut on the world stage at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden as a 17-year-old. The youngest player to ever compete in the tournament — he scored two goals to lead Brazil to a 5-2 victory over the host country and a legend was born.

Over the next 20 years, he would help Brazil to two more world titles and become one of the most prolific scorers in the game during stints with Brazilian club Santos and the Brazil national team. In 1999, he was named Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee.

In addition to his soccer career, Pelé was an ambassador for the sport, helping popularize it in the United States with a brief sojourn as a player for the New York Cosmos of the fledgling North American Soccer League in the late '70s.

He served as Minister for Sport in his native Brazil from 1995 until 1998 and enjoyed many roles as an actor in local and international movies and television productions.

Other than soccer, however, it was his lifelong love of music that defined his career.

The singer-songwriter wrote and released several singles and albums, starting with 1977's "Pelé." In 2016 he even released an anthem in honor of the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, the powerful pagode (a derivation of samba) song “Esperança.”

“I didn’t want the public to make the comparison between Pelé the composer and Pelé the football player,” he told The Guardian in 2006 of his musical aspirations. “That would have been a huge injustice. In football, my talent was a gift from God. Music was just for fun.”

A funeral is planned for Monday and Tuesday. According to the Associated Press Pelé's casket will be carried through the streets of Santos, the coastal city where his career began, before his burial.

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