The King is Dead

By Jaxson KR (‘25)

Image credit: LA Times

On the 29th of December 2022, worldwide soccer legend Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé, died at 82 years old. Pele left an immortal legacy and an unparalleled impact on the sport for which he was a champion, ambassador, and one of the greatest of all time. 

Pelé revolutionized the way soccer was played from the early age of 11, forming a signature style that brought speed and fluidity to what he called “the Beautiful Game” and created space in unique ways that no player before him had even thought of. Guinness World Records holds him as the most prolific goalscorer of all time, with 1279 registered goals in all matches as well as an astonishing 650 in league. Until Brazil’s run in this year’s World Cup, he was Brazil’s all time top scorer as well. Now, he is tied with Neymar Jr. Neymar himself thought of Pelé as a mentor and inspiration from a young age. He posted the following message on Instagram today: 

“Pelé changed everything. He transformed football into art, entertainment. Football and Brazil elevated their standing thanks to the King! He is gone, but his magic will endure. Pelé is eternal!”

The man himself has countless lists of achievements, including a record three World Cup victories, but he also changed the world off the field. He popularized his sport with his flashy playstyle and inspired millions of players and fans (including modern day icons like Neymar and Messi) with his story, earning him the nickname “the King”. Rising up from the streets of Sao Paulo in literal rags to achieving stardom in their national team at the age of 17, he was seen in his home country as a larger-than-life national hero. After a two-decade career, he tried and succeeded in other walks of life: a businessman, a politician, even a recorder of Brazilian music. He was an icon of black heritage as well, shaping ideas of race in Brazil and keeping heritage alive in his roles as an UNESCO and United Nations Ambassador.

I asked IA sophomore Luca Mollo a few questions about Pelé and the mark he’ll leave behind on the fields of avid players and fans:

JK: How has Pelé affected you as a soccer player yourself?

LM: Pelé has really instilled the value of soccer in my brain. He showed me how beautiful this sport is and to always enjoy it while playing.

JK: What do you think made Pelé special?

LM: He was definitely a superhero among his fellow players. He stood out like no other. As a kid he worked extremely hard and as he grew up, his work and talent came together and formed a monster of a player.

JK: What do you think his legacy will be? How will we remember him?

LM: I think people will always remember to enjoy playing soccer but also work hard while playing. We will remember the King every time we play and through every success we have.

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