Pelé, a national legend for all Brazilians

A Brazilian prays in front of the Vila Belmiro stadium where the Santos club, Pelé's first football club, plays on December 29, 2022 in São Paulo, after the announcement of his death.

© Matias Delacroix / PA

Text by: RFI Follow

4 mins

King Pelé is dead.

The only football player to have been crowned world champion three times, with the Brazilian Seleçao.

Also the star player of the Santos club, with whom he signed when he was only 15 years old.

But Pelé even represents much more than all that for the Brazilians, he is their legend. 


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For Brazilians, talking

about Pelé

is talking about emotions.


I have goosebumps.

Pelé is football.

He was born ahead of his time.

Pelé is not a footballer of his time, he is a current player.

Pelé was an athlete at a time when footballers were just simple football players

 , ”recalls Rodrigo interviewed by our correspondent in Rio de Janeiro,

Sarah Cozzolino.

The latter has never seen Pelé play, but his father transmitted his passion to him.

According to this football fan, he is the best player in the world.

You can ask a historian, he'll tell you it's Pelé.

You can ask a statistician, he'll tell you it's Pelé.

It's unanimous, and those who don't agree don't know anything about football.


The football prodigy won three World Cups with the


, in 1958, 1962 and 1970. Luiz watched all the videos of his idol's best goals.


For me, he is a God, he is far above.

He can be surpassed in numbers: Mbappé has already done that by scoring more goals at the same age.

But in beauty, it is impossible.

Pelé was magic

 , ”he says with emotion.

Several generations of Brazilians have been influenced by King Pelé.

Fifty years after ending his career, he still remains the reference for all football enthusiasts.

Pele's image is projected onto a building in Sao Paulo, Brazil, December 29, 2022. © Marcelo Chello / AP

Strong emotions in Santos 

At the Santos football stadium, where Pelé played for 18 years, a golden crown was projected onto a giant screen.

A tribute to the greatest footballer of all time, reports our special correspondent at Santos,

Martin Bernard


And it is in this same stadium that admirers of Pelé will be able to come and pay tribute to him on Monday.

There is also a parade along the beach that day.

A long journey, which goes from the home of Pelé's mother - Céleste, who is a hundred years old - to the cemetery, where Pelé will be buried.

The older supporters had tears in their eyes.

They all remember Pelé's exploits on the pitch, and feel like they've lost a part of their own lives.

They refer to Pelé as the greatest idol of all time.

It is a great pride for them, and it is the aspect of the eternal Pelé.

Then there are also the young people, who have a lot of respect for Pelé.

Here, we love football, we live for football and everyone is a fan of the Santos football club.

But these young people also came to take their hat off to the three-time World Cup winner.

It must be said that it has been 20 years since Brazil won a football World Cup, and therefore for the youngest, winning three World Cups seems extraordinary.

A screen with a golden crown in the Santos FC club stadium after the death of Brazilian player Pelé, December 29, 2022. © Matias Delacroix / AP

Pelé unites even at the political level

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has declared a three-day mourning in honor of the legend.

Tributes are also raining on the political side.

Jair Bolsonaro pointed out that Pelé “ 

carried the name of Brazil all over the world 


Future President Lula, who will be sworn in on January 1, 2023, said he had the privilege of seeing Pelé play in football stadiums, a " 

real spectacle

 " according to him.

Eu tive o privilégio que os brasileiros mais jovens não tiveram: eu vi o Pelé jogar, ao vivo, no Pacaembu e Morumbi.

Jogar, não.

Eu vi o Pelé dar show.

Porque quando pegava na bola ele semper fazia algo especial, que muitas vezes acabava em gol.

📸: @ricardostuckert

— Lula (@LulaOficial) December 29, 2022


such a tense political situation

, with the approach of the transfer of power between two presidents that everything opposes, Pelé nevertheless ends up bringing the Brazilians together.

This may be his last victory.

►Also read: From Neymar to Mbappé, from Lula to Macron, tributes from around the world to the "King" of football


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