Pelé, widely regarded as possibly the greatest soccer player in history, has died at the age of 82.
The Brazilian legend, who famously coined the popular term “the beautiful game” in reference to the sport, wowed fans with his dazzling style of play and led his native country to three World Cup titles.
Pelé had been undergoing treatment for colon cancer since 2021, spending the last month hospitalized at a medical center as his condition worsened. The medical center said he ultimately died of multiple organ failure, The Associated Press reported.
In a statement through his official Instagram account, Pelé’s family confirmed his death, saying the larger than life soccer star — who was born Edson Arantes do Nascimento — also led various social work initiatives and spread the message of “love” throughout his life.
“Inspiration and love marked the journey of King Pelé, who peacefully passed away today,” his family said in a statement. “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.”
“His message today becomes a legacy for future generations, Love, love and love, forever.”
Pelé, born in the small city of Três Corações in 1940, began his professional career at the age of 15 when he signed with Brazilian professional club Santos FC, spending 18 years at the club, where he amassed 618 goals in 636 official appearances.
Pelé led his native country to three World Cup victories in the span of 12 years, winning his first title at the age of 17 in 1958 and his third and final title at 29 years of age in 1970.
The soccer legend also had a short stint playing soccer in the U.S., as he suited up for the North American Soccer League’s New York Cosmos for three seasons, scoring 37 goals during his tenure and leading the club to a league title in 1977.
Pelé’s fame also carried him to the realm of politics, becoming an extraordinary minister for sport in his native country and an ambassador for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, also using his fame to help opposing factions in Nigeria’s civil war agree to a brief cease-fire agreement in 1967, so he could play an exhibition match in the country.
Many prominent figures in the sports and soccer world have expressed their condolences on news of Pelé’s death, with messages coming from the U.S. men’s national soccer team player Timothy Weah, French star Kylian Mbappé and Brazilian men’s national team star Neymar.
“I would say before Pelé football was just a sport. Pelé has changed it all. He turned football into art, into entertainment He gave voice to the poor, to the blacks and especially: He gave visibility to Brazil,” Neymar wrote in an Instagram post. “Soccer and Brazil have raised their status thanks to the King! He’s gone but his magic remains. Pelé is FOREVER!!”