Pele's World Cup-winning teammates remember a 'player from another planet'

Brazil has declared three days of mourning to lament his passing, with global leaders, fans and friends paying their respects to the sports icon

By Reuters

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Pele celebrates a goal. — Reuters file
Pele celebrates a goal. — Reuters file

Published: Sat 31 Dec 2022, 9:42 PM

Some of Brazilian football legend Pele's former teammates remembered him as the greatest player of all time, as they mourned his death and celebrated his legacy.

Gerson and Pepe, who played with Pele in World Cup-winning Brazil sides, described the only man to win three World Cup trophies as a player from another planet, who was also a great guy off the pitch.

Pele, whose full name was Edson Arantes do Nascimento, died on Thursday at 3:27 p.m. local time (18:27 GMT) due to multiple organ failures resulting from the progression of colon cancer, according to Sao Paulo's Albert Einstein Hospital. He was 82.

Brazil has declared three days of mourning to lament his passing, with global leaders, fans and friends paying their respects to the sports icon.

Gerson, who won the 1970 World Cup with Brazil alongside Pele, said in an interview from his home in Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro, that playing with him "was knowing that victory would come.

"He was the best, the king of soccer. Edson Arantes do Nascimento has died, but Pele is eternal," said 81-year-old Gerson. Both he and Pele scored in the 1970 final, when Brazil thrashed Italy 4-1 to clinch their third world title.

Jose Macia, nicknamed Pepe, participated in the previous two tournaments in 1958 and 1962, and also played with Pele for club side Santos. He praised his former team mate as one of a kind, whose skills will never be seen again.

"I joke that his mother threw away the formula she used to create him. There will never be someone like him," said Pepe, 87, in an interview at his home in Socorro, a small city near Sao Paulo.

"Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Maradona are all exceptional, wonderful players, but they are human. Pele was not human, he came from Saturn."

Gerson went further: "Is there any place further than Saturn?" he wondered. "If so, that's where he came from".

Meanwhile, Liverpool boss Juergen Klopp is convinced no one can be greater than Pele but what he marvelled at the most was the Brazilian football great's humility despite being one of the most popular people on the planet.

Klopp said he did not have even "0.01%" of the skills of Pele and described how he received a signed number 10 Brazil shirt on his birthday when he met the former striker and German great Franz Beckenbauer at the World Cup in 2006.

"Whatever anyone tells me in the future, Pele was the best. I will not forget that," Klopp said.

"Both of them showed me that if you are the most famous person on the planet, you can still be a completely normal guy. That's what I love the most, that's what I took as a lesson, that's something I will never forget.

"So because I'm Christian, this is not over. He will now play football in a wonderful stadium with fantastic players from the past."

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