pose for a photo together in 2016. The two shared FIFA’s Player of the Century award in 2000. After Maradona’s death in 2020, Diego Maradona Pelé paid tribute to his “dear friend” on Instagram: “One day, I hope, we will play soccer together in the sky.”
Pelé attends a charity match in Manchester, England, in 2016.
Pelé was just 16 years old when he made his debut for Brazil’s national team. It was less than a year after he started playing professionally with Brazilian club Santos in 1956.
Pelé admires the Jules Rimet Trophy, the prize for winning the World Cup, circa 1958.
Pelé scores Brazil’s third goal during the 1958 World Cup final against Sweden. Brazil won 5-2 to claim its first-ever World Cup. “When we won the World Cup, everybody knew about Brazil,” he told CNN’s Don Riddell many years later. “I think this was the most important thing I gave to my country because we were well known after that World Cup.”
Pelé cries on Brazilian teammate Gilmar after winning the World Cup in 1958. In addition to scoring twice in the final, Pelé scored a hat trick in the semifinal win against France. He also scored the team’s lone goal in the quarterfinal win over Wales.
Pelé wears a sash after Santos became São Paulo state champions in 1961. Pelé played for the club from 1956-1974, scoring 618 goals and winning six Brazilian league titles. In 1962 and 1963, Santos won the Copa Libertadores, which is South America’s premier club competition.
Pelé sits behind the wheel of his car in 1961. He grew up poor in Bauru, Brazil, and honed his craft playing barefoot with improvised balls made of coconuts or balls of socks.
Pelé returned to the World Cup with Brazil in 1962 and starred in the team’s opening win over Mexico. But he was injured in the second match against Czechoslovakia and would miss the rest of the tournament. Brazil still defended its crown.
Pelé sits on a ball during a break in training in 1963. The Brazilian national team was in London to play a match against England.
Pelé is seen with his parents, Dondinho and Celeste, in 1965. Dondinho was a soccer player himself and taught his son how to play.
Pelé performs an overhead kick during a match in 1965. Dutch soccer star Johan Cruyff once said Pelé “was the only footballer who surpassed the boundaries of logic.”
A soapy Pelé shakes hands with US Sen. Robert F. Kennedy after a match in Rio de Janeiro in 1965.
Pelé and his first wife, Rosemeri, meet Pope Paul VI while visiting the Vatican in 1966. The newlywed couple had been honeymooning in Germany, Austria and Italy.
Pelé signs autographs for children in 1966. He played in the 1966 World Cup with Brazil but the team didn’t advance out of the group stage that year.
Pelé and his wife, Rosemeri, take their young daughter, Kely, out for a walk in 1967. It was their first child together. They would have three children in all before divorcing in 1978.
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip, award a trophy to Pelé after watching a match in Rio de Janeiro in 1968.
Pelé celebrates with fans after scoring his 1,000th career goal in 1969.
Pelé relaxes by a hotel swimming pool while in Mexico for the 1970 World Cup.
Pelé celebrates after scoring the first goal for Brazil in the 1970 World Cup final against Italy. The Brazilians won 4-1. “Before the match, I told myself that Pelé was just flesh and bones like the rest of us,” Italian defender Tarcisio Burgnich said after the match. “Later, I realized I’d been wrong.”
Pelé celebrates with Jairzinho after winning the World Cup final in 1970. The Brazilians won all six matches at the tournament, and that team is considered by many to be one of the best of all time.
Pelé raises the Jules Rimet Trophy after winning the 1970 World Cup. Brazil was able to permanently keep that trophy for winning its third title, and a new World Cup trophy was introduced in 1974.
Pelé signs a soccer ball for US President Richard Nixon while visiting the White House with his wife, Rosemeri, in 1973. Pelé met several US presidents during his life. His celebrity status brought this famous quip from Ronald Reagan in 1986: “My name is Ronald Reagan, I’m the President of the United States of America. But you don’t need to introduce yourself, because everyone knows who Pelé is.”
Late-night television host Johnny Carson gets some pointers from Pelé in 1973.
Pelé waves to the crowd before making his debut with the New York Cosmos in 1975. He signed a $1.4 million a year contract with the Cosmos and made a big splash in the emerging league.
American football star Joe Namath, left, exchanges balls with Pelé during a promotional event in New York in 1975.
Cheerleaders wait to welcome Pelé onto the field during a Cosmos match in 1977.
Pelé holds Brazilian and American flags after his final match in 1977. It was an exhibition at Giants Stadium between the Cosmos and his longtime Brazilian club, Santos. He played the first half for the Cosmos and the second half for Santos.
Pelé attends a party with actors Michael Caine, left, and Sylvester Stallone. The three starred together in the 1981 film “Escape to Victory.”
Pelé poses for a photo in Rio de Janeiro in 1991.
Pelé embraces two Brazilian stars — Ronaldo, left, and Roberto Carlos — after they finished first and second, respectively, for the 1997 FIFA World Player of the Year Award.
Pelé poses for a portrait in 2006. In his later years, Pelé was an outspoken political voice who championed the poor in Brazil. He served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for many years, promoting peace and support for vulnerable children.
Pelé and English soccer star David Beckham attend a gala benefit celebrating soccer in the United States in 2008.