UNESCO says it is 'deeply saddened' by the death of footballing legend Pelé

Pelé, the Brazilian soccer legend who many consider the greatest player of all time, has died in hospital in Sao Paulo, Brazil, at the age of 82. He had been undergoing treatment for colon cancer since last year.

The United Nations Educational and Cultural Organization which defends the role of sport around the world, UNESCO, said it was “deeply saddened” by his death.

In a tweet, the UN agency offered its condolences to the Brazilian people and the wider “football family”.

Aged 17, Pelé won his first FIFA World Cup in 1958, before lifting the game’s supreme trophy twice more, in 1962 and 1970.

He scored a world record 1,281 goals, playing 1,363 games during his professional career, which started when he was just 15 years old.

Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, in 1940, the football giant, nicknamed “the Black Pearl” and “the King”, retired from the game in 1977.

In 1999, the Santos player and Brazil’s most revered star, was voted player of the century in a poll of previous Ballon d’Or winners – the players who win the annual world football award for being top athletes that year.

Score for the United Nations

He devoted much time in retirement to supporting the UN and its work, both as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and as a Champion of the United Nations. UNESCO for Sport, from 1994.

He was also named Goodwill Ambassador for the crucial United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, one of the first major world summits on development and the environment dedicated to a more sustainable future for all.

At the time, Summit Secretary General Maurice Strong described him not only as the greatest footballer in the world, but ” a universal manrooted in Brazil.

“His commitment to people, to the planet, really makes him a true citizen of our Earth”he told reporters.

UNESCO said in his tweet that he had “worked tirelessly to promote sport as a tool for peace. He will be greatly missed.”

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