The Emperor and the King: Germany's soccer legend Franz Beckenbauer shares a common time with Pelé at the soccer club New York Cosmos. Between them a special friendship grew from which Beckenbauer still takes something with him today: Pelé's impressive down-to-earth attitude.
"Today, soccer has lost the greatest in its history - and I have lost a unique friend. Born in Três Corações, Pelé had three hearts: for soccer, for his family and for all people. One who played with the stars and always stayed grounded. I went to the United States in 1977 because I really wanted to play on a team with Pelé at Cosmos New York. That time alongside him was one of the greatest experiences of my career. We became U.S. champions together at the first attempt and Pelé then only called me his brother. That was an unimaginable honor for me. Soccer will be yours forever, my friend! You will always remain. Thank you for your game, O Rei!"
From the beginning, Pelé fought against discrimination and insults with his positivity. He showed the world that everyone has equal value and even inspired people without ever having met them. One of them is German-Brazilian soccer player Cacau, who highlights what Pelé meant to People of Color who wanted to become soccer players.
"Although I never met you, you inspired me deeply. Your goals, your joy on the field and especially your attitude off the field, your respect, enthusiasm and humility. How you faced discrimination and showed time and time again what you were capable of with your attitude and results, oh ... how you inspired me. Even though you were compared to many, you never spared praise for each one, that's what makes you incomparable."
Just a few weeks ago, Pelé addressed Neymar. The current superstar of the Brazilian national team had just been eliminated from the World Cup with the Seleção. Pelé consoled with the words: "Your legacy is far from over. Keep inspiring us."
But Pelé's legacy will also far outlive him, as Neymar impressively notes. Because soccer hasn't been the same since Pelé, he transformed it into an art, into pure entertainment, setting the standard for the sport we love today.
"Before Pelé, '10' was just a number. I read this sentence somewhere at some point in my life. But this beautiful sentence is incomplete. I would say that before Pelé, soccer was just a sport. Pelé changed everything. He transformed soccer into art, into entertainment. He gave a voice to the poor, to blacks, and above all to others: it gave visibility to Brazil. Soccer and Brazil have raised their status thanks to the King! He has passed away, but his magic will remain. Pelé is ETERNAL!"
Pelé was not only an ace at his sport, he also knew how to market himself wisely after his soccer career. Not only was he a sought-after advertiser for American Express, Pepsi, Viagra and many more, he also founded his own sports marketing agency and created the "Pelé Sports" brand. And so, as a true sports icon, he inspires other sports stars, such as tennis pro Roger Federer.
"Thank you for inspiring millions of sports fans and athletes. I consider myself very lucky to have met you and to have had the chance to learn from you and look up to you. You were one of the first true global sports icons. Rest in peace, King Pelé."
Mbappé became world champion at the age of 19 and was named the tournament's best young player. But he could not follow in Pelé's footsteps with it: At the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, Pelé went down in soccer history as the youngest world champion at just 17. Mbappé paid tribute with the words:
"The King of Football has left us, but his legacy will never be forgotten. RIP KING."
Nadal, the bull from Manacor, tops the record list as a tennis talent. What few know: As a child, his passion was soccer. So it's not surprising that Pelé's ambition and three World Cup titles shaped him beyond sporting boundaries.
"Today, once again, a great of world sport leaves us. A sad day for the world of soccer, for the world of sport. His legacy will always be with us. I didn't see him play, I wasn't that lucky, but I was always taught and told that he was the king of soccer. Rest in peace! O Rei!"
It wasn't just his native Brazil that became famous for Pelé's soccer skills. He played for the New York Cosmos club from 1975 to 1977 and was instrumental in making soccer popular in the U.S. as well. In 2019, he met former U.S. President Obama and left his footprint outside the soccer world. Pelé shared at the time, "We talked about how we can work together to make the world a better place. I'm happy to be on the same team with him."
"Pelé was one of the greatest soccer players who ever played. And as one of the world's most famous athletes, he understood the power of sport to bring people together. Our thoughts are with his family and everyone who loved and admired him."