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Pele to spend Christmas in hospital as cancer worsens

Brazilian football great Pele will spend Christmas in hospital, his medical team and family said Wednesday, as he receives treatment for worsening cancer as well as kidney and heart problems.

The 82-year-old “requires greater care related to renal and cardiac dysfunctions,” said the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo.

It also reported a “progression” of his cancer, but said Pele was not in intensive care.

Considered by many to be the greatest footballer of all time, Pele was hospitalized in Sao Paulo on November 29 for what his medical team called a re-evaluation of his chemotherapy treatments, which he has been receiving since having surgery to remove a colon tumor in September 2021.

Doctors have also diagnosed Pele — whose real name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento — with a respiratory infection.

Earlier this month, Pele’s daughters Kely Nascimento and Flavia Arantes sought to reassure fans about his health, denying reports that Pele had been placed in end-of-life care as supporters held a vigil outside the hospital.

They said Wednesday on Instagram that they would be spending Christmas with their father at the hospital.

“Our Christmas at home has been suspended,” they wrote.

“We decided with the doctors that, for various reasons, it would be better for us to stay here with all the care that this new family at Einstein gives us!!”

Accompanied by a picture of them smiling, the sisters thanked Pele’s fans for their support and wished them a happy festive season.

“We are going to turn this room into a Sambodrome (just kidding), we will even make caipirinhas (not kidding!!),” they joked, referencing Brazil’s famous cocktail.

The siblings promised an update next week.

‘The King’

Pele dazzled from an early age and took the 1958 World Cup by storm when he was 17 years old, netting a hat trick in the semifinals and two more goals in the final, catapulting his own career and launching the soccer dynasty of the Brazilian national team.

Pele scored more than 1,000 goals in one of the most storied careers in sport. He is the only player in history to have won three World Cups (1958, 1962 and 1970).

In recent years, the man dubbed “The King” has faced deteriorating health and his public appearances have grown rare. 

He has dealt with his ailments with trademark good humor, remaining active on social media.

Pele posted regularly during the Qatar World Cup, including a message of congratulations to captain Lionel Messi after Argentina took the top prize.

“Congratulations to Argentina! Diego (Maradona, who died on November 25, 2020) is probably smiling now,” he wrote.

Pele also watched from hospital as star player Neymar equalled his goal record of 77 with the “Selecao.”

Pele has received messages from well-wishers all over the world, also recently from French striker Kylian Mbappe who called on fans earlier this month to “pray for the King.”

It was with Mbappe that Pele made one of his last public appearances, in April 2019, in Paris, for a promotional event.

World Cup host nation Qatar also showed its support for Pele, lighting up buildings with a “Get well soon” message.

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