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Rahul Gandhi: Football has lost one of its greatest ambassadors

Football has lost one of its greatest ambassadors. Pele was amongst the rare breed of sportsmen says Rahul Gandhi.

Great legend Pele dies at 82 leaving his fans grieving. Pele, whose full name was Edson Arantes do Nascimento, died on December 29th, 2022, Thursday at São Paulo’s Albert Einstein Hospital from cancer in Sao Paulo. He was 82.  His body stopped responding to the treatment.

Rahul Gandhi Congress leader and ardent fan of Pele tweeted, “Football has lost one of its greatest ambassadors. Pele was amongst the rare breed of sportsmen – legend both on and off the field.  My condolences to his family and fans across the world.”

The Indian cricket community grieved Pele’s passing at the age of 82, with accolades flooding in for the Brazilian legend who grandly represented his sport and inspired generations. Pele would leave Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo early Monday morning and be placed in the field’s center circle. According to the hospital, he died as a result of numerous organ failures caused by the advancement of colon cancer.

Many renowned Indian cricketers, including Virender Sehwag, Jasprit Bumrah, VVS Laxman, and Harbhajan Singh, paid respect to the football legend. They all shared photographs of Pele with heartfelt captions, paying respect to the Brazilian superstar and expressing their condolences to his family during this difficult time.

“RIP Pele. Inspiration around the world, a global icon, a legend,” Indian cricketer Jasprit Bumrah wrote.

His Career

Pele’s success on the football field made him a sports icon, but he added to that with many performances as an actor and singer. Movies, music, and TV rose Brazil to the heights of stardom.  All of his biographers agree that the three-time World Cup champion wrote more than 100 songs and sold more than 100,000 copies of one of his albums.

He was also in the movies, notably in the World War II film “Victory,” and was one of the stars of a Brazilian comedy that brought more than 3.6 million people to the theaters in the South American nation.  The movie was directed by John Huston, and Pele said he had the most fun doing it. He played Cpl. Luis Fernandes, a soldier from Trinidad.

The plot involves prisoners of war preparing to face a German team in Nazi-occupied Paris amid their attempt to escape. At the time with the New York Cosmos, Pele had the chance to play with very different teammates — actors Sylvester Stallone and Michael Caine.

“If I had to give myself a grade as an actor it would be a 10,” Pele jokingly said in several interviews after “Victory.”

He also told friends that the original script had Stallone in position to score the winning goal with a bicycle kick, but the American actor did not have the skills to do it, so he was placed as a goalkeeper instead. Former England captain Bobby Moore is also in the film, along with several other professional football players.

“Victory,” known as “Escape to Victory” in many places, made almost $28 million at the box office.

Author Ivani Ribeiro was the first to bring him to TV soap operas. She cast Pele in a show named “Os Estranhos” (The Strangers), in which he played the role of a famous writer who lived on an island and had extraterrestrial friends.

Pele’s last famous appearance in a soap opera came in 2002 in “O Clone” (The Clone), which was popular in dozens of other countries. He played himself and sang the song “Em Busca do Penta” (Seeking the Fifth). The lyrics were about Brazil winning the World Cup again. Three months later, Brazil won the World Cup for the fifth time.

“Peleginga” was his biggest musical hit. Recorded with a choir and an orchestra, the samba album included 12 songs written by Pele and was released in 2006.

Three years later, the Brazilian star wanted to record another album for international audiences and invited U2 singer Bono to share the vocals on one of the tracks. The Irishman was on tour with his band, however, and the project was abandoned.

Pele also recorded a record with Brazilian diva Elis Regina and released an album that was produced by Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Sergio Mendes.

Pele has also been a character in widely popular comic books in Brazil. Cartoonist Mauricio de Sousa and Pele, who was playing for New York Cosmos at the time, reached a deal in 1976 for the publication of children’s stories in comic book format.

At first, Pele didn’t like the childish features of Pelezinho. Sousa said in several interviews the player wanted to be portrayed as a strong child athlete. The cartoonist then made a suggestion that he should ask his children what they thought. Both kids loved it.

Sousa used several stories from Pele’s childhood in Pelezinho plots. The comic books were published regularly from 1977-86, and after that on special occasions. The latest was in 2013 as Brazil hosted the Confederations Cup, a warm-up tournament for the following year’s World Cup in the country.

Who was Pele?

Regarded as one of the greatest players of all time and labeled “the greatest” by FIFA, he was among the most thriving and popular sports figures of the 20th century. 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. In 2000, Pelé was voted World Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) and was one of the two joint winners of the FIFA Player of the Century. His 1,279 goals in 1,363 games, which includes friendlies, are recognized as a Guinness World Record.

Pelé began playing for Santos at age 15 and the Brazil national team at 16. During his international career, he won three FIFA World Cups: 1958, 1962, and 1970, the only player to do so. He was nicknamed O Rei (The King) following the 1958 tournament. Pelé is the joint-top goalscorer for Brazil with 77 goals in 92 games. At the club level, he was Santos’ all-time top goalscorer with 643 goals in 659 games.  In a golden era for Santos, he led the club to the 1962 and 1963 Copa Libertadores, and to the 1962 and 1963 Intercontinental Cup.

Credited with connecting the phrase “The Beautiful Game” with football, Pelé’s “electrifying play and penchant for spectacular goals” made him a superstar around the world, and his teams toured internationally to take full advantage of his popularity. During his playing days, Pelé was for a period the best-paid athlete in the world. After retiring in 1977, Pelé was a worldwide ambassador for football and made many acting and commercial ventures. In 2010, he was named the honorary president of the New York Cosmos.

As Rahul Gandhi says, “Football has lost one of its greatest ambassadors. Pele was amongst the rare breed of sportsmen.”

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