Pelé obituary

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Global superstar of football who was a hugely prolific goalscorer and three times a World Cup winner with Brazil

Pelé, who has died aged 82 after suffering from cancer, is widely regarded as the greatest footballer the game has ever seen. He was the only player to have won the World Cup three times, and perhaps the most remarkable aspect of his long career was that he reached his apotheosis so early, and on the world’s biggest stage. He was 17 when he played for Brazil in the 1958 World Cup finals in Sweden, scoring six goals in their last three games – the winner in the quarter-final, a hat-trick in the semi-final and two in the final – his confidence and stature growing palpably with every game.

Almost two decades later he came out of retirement and made the almost unthinkable decision of signing for New York Cosmos. For all its wealth, the US was then a pauper of the football world, and it was Pelé who helped introduce Americans to “soccer”. His first game was televised in 22 countries, and the pitch, more dirt than grass, had to be spray-painted green for the watching world.

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Written by Gavin McOwan
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