Football in four letters: Global media bows to 'King' Pele

Friday December 30 2022

Brazilian football legend Pele kisses a ball, during a presentation in Leipzig on December 8, 2005, on the eve of the final draw of the Fifa football World Cup 2006. PHOTO | AFP


His face appeared on televisions around the world and dominated the homepages of news outlets everywhere as global media bowed to the late, great Pele, the undisputed "King" of football.

News organisations across the planet hailed the legendary Brazilian, who died Thursday at the age of 82 and was widely considered the greatest footballer to ever play the game and stood alone as the only one in history to win three World Cups.

To the Brazilian daily O Globo, whose front page was packed with stories about the sporting legend, Pele may have died, but he remained the "immortal king of football."

In the Folha de S.Paulo, journalist Juca Kfouri quoted the late Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade, who said: "The difficulty, the extraordinary, is not to score 1,000 goals like Pele - it's to score one goal like Pele." 

Concluding his obituary, Kfouri suggested that while Edson Arantes do Nascimento -- Pele's birth name -- may have passed on, "it isn't true that Pele is dead."

In Argentina, home of Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, both also contenders for the title of greatest of all time, the Clarin remembered Pele as "a supreme symbol of football's spectacle" and a "great among the greats." 


The Argentine sports daily Ole wrote: "Beyond the rivalry that exists between Argentina and Brazil, no one can doubt that Pele was one of the greatest footballers in history, for many the best, on top of Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi."

Writing in the German tabloid Bild, Alfred Draxler saw no need for such couching, declaring that "Pele was better than Messi, Maradona and Cristiano Ronaldo combined." 

In Mexico, meanwhile, the image of Pele celebrating his third world title win in 1970 at the country's Estadio Azteca circulated widely, with El Universal declaring, "Football in mourning!" 

The main story on the homepage of Ecuador's El Universo was titled in part: "Goodbye to Pele, the 'supernatural footballer.''

In the far less football-mad United States, the New York Times called Pele the "global face of soccer" who "helped popularise the sport" stateside with his 1975-1977 stint with the New York Cosmos. 

Japan's Asahi Shimbun lauded Pele's intelligence and his forays into business and politics, he was sports minister of Brazil from 1995 to 1998 -- calling him "a man of many talents off the pitch too". 

In France, L'Equipe ran 22 special pages on Pele, with Vincent Duluc writing: "Behind the sadness is hidden the happiness of having seen him play, seen him dance, even in old images, and of having seen him give another meaning to the most universal game on the planet." 

El Pais in Spain, meanwhile, headlined one of several stories on the legend's passing: "Pele, global football in four letters". 

And in Italy's La Stampa, Matteo Giusti began his article with a quote attributed to the Brazilian writer Jorge Amado: "If football hadn't been called that, it should have been called Pele."