Occasionally, mortals in ancient Greece, would be granted apotheosis, the process of being deified, joining the pantheon of the gods. It is almost certain, that had he lived in ancient Greece, Pele, who has died at the age of 82, would have been such a mortal. As it is, he is forever celebrated, the world over, as a footballing god.
Pele who had been diagnosed with colon cancer, had a tumour removed last year. But last November, he had to be readmitted into the Albert Einstein Hospital, in Sao Paulo.
He clearly fought against the illness, to the very end. Earlier this month, as his concerned family, gathered around him, he posted a social media message, assuring the world, that he felt “strong, with a lot of hope.”
The message was perhaps characteristic of the man, whose charm and seemingly, eternally sunny dispossession, charmed the entire globe, but in the end, his body could not find the strength to keep up with his spirit.
A statement in the run up to Christmas, from the hospital, announced complications of “renal and cardiac dysfunctions” and “progression” of his colon cancer.
As his family rushed to spend Christmas with him in hospital, Brazil, and it must be said, the entire footballing world, waited anxiously. At his advanced age, it turned out that too much was being asked of his body.
Edson Arantes Do Nascimento, was October 23rd 1940, (he was named after the American 19th Century inventor, Thomas Edison, but his parents misspelt the name). The man whom the world would take to its heart, as Pele, was a professional footballer at the age of fifteen. A year later, he made his international debut, at sixteen, one of the many records he would go on to set.
In the 1958 World Cup, in Sweden, aged seventeen, Pele would become the youngest world cup champion ever, scoring 6 goals, throughout the tournament, including the final itself.
But it would be the 1970 World Cup, when Pele, led arguably the greatest team of all time, that his legend would be cemented in minds of the adoring world.
Brazil, World Soccer declared, was more than a team. They won in such style, they became “a myth, a team to be held as the ultimate exponent of the beautiful game.”
Italy defender, Tarcisio Burgnich, who was designated to mark Pele in the final, would say of his opponent, “I told myself before the game, ‘he’s made of skin and bones just like everyone else,’ I was wrong.”