FIFA said Pele was simply “immortal” after the Brazil legend, named by world football’s governing body as the greatest player of the 20th century, died on Thursday aged 82.
“For everyone who loves the beautiful game, this is the day we never wanted to come. The day we lost Pele,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a statement.
“Today, we all mourn the loss of the physical presence of our dear Pele, but he achieved immortality a long time ago and therefore he will be with us for eternity.”
Pele is the only footballer to have won three FIFA World Cups.
He was just 17 when he won with Brazil in Sweden in 1958. Pele won the World Cup again in Chile in 1962, despite being forced out of much of the tournament due to injury.
He lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy for the third and final time in Mexico in 1970.
“Pele: immortal – forever with us,” FIFA said on its website.
Infantino said Pele was unique, as he sent his condolences to his family, Brazil and all football fans.
“His skill and imagination were incomparable. Pele did things that no other player would even dream of,” Infantino said.
“Most importantly, ‘The King’ rose the throne with a smile on his face. Football could be brutal in those days, and Pele was often on the receiving end of some rough treatment.
“But, while he knew how to stand up for himself, he was always an exemplary sportsman, with genuine respect for his opponents.”
Infantino added: “Pele had a magnetic presence and, when you were with him, the rest of the world stopped. His life is about more than football. He changed perceptions for the better in Brazil, in South America and across the world.”
FIFA noted that he was the youngest-ever world champion—not to mention the youngest scorer, youngest hat-trick scorer, youngest finalist and youngest player to score in a final in World Cup history.
Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who led world football’s governing body from 1998 to 2015, called Pele the greatest player ever.
“The world mourns the greatest footballer in history and a wonderful personality. He celebrated the game like no other,” Blatter said on Twitter.
“Dear Pele, I am immensely sad and honour you and your life’s work. My sincere condolences to your family and friends.”
Meanwhile European football’s governing body UEFA praised Pele for his part in football’s popularity.
“He was the first global superstar of the game. Rest in peace, Pele.”
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