Thursday 29 December 2022, 20:45

Immortal - forever with us

For everyone who loves the beautiful game, this is the day we never wanted to come. The day we lost Pelé. “O Rei” was unique in so many ways. He was the only player to have won the FIFA World Cup three times and his skill and imagination were incomparable. Pelé did things that no other player would even dream of, such as the famous dummy in the 1970 FIFA World Cup semi-final that became known as the Pelé run-around. Or the goal he scored in the 1958 FIFA World Cup final as a 17-year-old when he flicked the ball over a defender and volleyed it into the net. The sight of him punching the air in celebration is one of the most iconic in our sport, and is etched into our history. In fact, because televised football was still in his infancy at the time, we only saw small glimpses of what he was capable of. Most importantly, “The King” rose the throne with a smile on his face. Football could be brutal in those days, and Pelé 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.

I had the great privilege of meeting him in several occasions. In 2016, already as FIFA President, we were side by side for the premiere of Pelé’s movie, which reminded me of when I sat next to my father in 1981 when he brought me to watch “Escape to Victory” in which Pelé starred alongside Sylvester Stallone and other famous actors. I was 11 years old and my father told me what a great player Pelé was. The fantastic goal he scored in that movie was the only way, at that time, to have a glimpse of his incredible skills. The moments spent with him will forever remain in my memory and in my heart. Pelé 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. His legacy is impossible to summarise in words.

To his family and friends, to CBF, to Brazil and to all football fans who loved him so much, I express my sincere condolences. Today, we all mourn the loss of the physical presence of our dear Pelé, but he achieved immortality a long time ago and therefore he will be with us for eternity. Gianni Infantino - FIFA President