The football world was left reeling when news broke of the death of legendary Brazilian footballer Pele on December 29, 2022.
The former Santos FC star had been hospitalized at Sao Paulo’s Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital since November 29, battling colon cancer for the last two years. A medical report just before Christmas revealed that Pele required treatment for cardiac and renal dysfunction.
Pele’s death marked the end of an era for football, as he was widely considered one of the greatest players of all time. The Brazilian forward won three World Cups with the national team and scored over a thousand goals in his professional career.
Pele’s legacy is not just limited to his on-field achievements, but also his impact off the field, where he became a global ambassador for the sport and an advocate for social causes.
Despite his illness, Pele remained a passionate supporter of Brazil and was eagerly rooting for his beloved Selecao to win the World Cup. However, after Brazil crashed out in the quarterfinals, Pele threw his support behind Argentina, Brazil’s fierce South American rivals.
Kely Nascimento, Pele’s daughter, told us in her recent Instagram post that she disclosed this information to Messi’s wife Antonela Roccuzzo when they met at the Fifa “The Best” Awards party.
According to Kely, her father believed that any team could win the World Cup and that the possibility of any team winning was what he loved about the beautiful game.
Storytime: This is the very pretty and kind Antonela Roccuzzo, Messi’s wife. I didn’t have the opportunity to meet Messi, so when I met her in the magical place of every party (the women’s restroom) I passed on a message to him through her.
When Brazil lost to Croatia, my dad was already getting worse. Everyone wanted Brazil to win the World Cup for my dad, no one more than the Selecao!
But my dad knew better than most what soccer is like. And it was the possibility of any team being able to win that he would always say was what he loved about the beautiful game.
Kely revealed that her father had told everyone who visited the hospital room that he wanted Argentina to win the World Cup and that Lionel Messi deserved to lift the trophy.
After Brazil’s exit, everyone that came into his hospital room (all day, every day until the final!!!) would ask him: ‘And now Pele? Now who do you want to win? Surely not Argentina!!!’
And he would say, ‘Yes Argentina! The trophy has to come back to South America and Messi has to win. Everyone would feign (and sometimes not even feign) horror! What?! Argentina?! And he simply would say, ‘Yes, Messi wins.’
Pele’s decision to support Argentina was met with shock by many, as Brazil and Argentina have one of the most intense rivalries in football history.
However, Pele’s love for the sport transcended national boundaries, and he saw in Messi the qualities that had made him a legend of the game.
Messi duly delivered on Pele’s faith in him, leading Argentina to their first World Cup triumph since 1986. The little magician scored seven goals and provided three assists in the tournament, including two crucial goals in the final against France.
His successful effort in the penalty shootout helped Argentina beat the French 4-2 on penalties following a thrilling 3-3 draw after 120 minutes.
Pele could not watch the game due to his illness becoming worse, but he did know of the fact that Messi had won.
He didn’t ever get to watch the final on television but he knew that Argentina had won and that Messi had lifted the trophy, and he was happy.
After the final, Messi received the Golden Ball for his exploits in Qatar, making him the first player to win the accolade twice. He also went on to win Fifa’s “The Best” Player award, which capped off his year perfectly.
The passing of Pele was a sad moment for football fans all over the world, but his legacy will live on for generations to come. Pele was not only one of the greatest players to ever grace the field, but also an ambassador for the sport, spreading his love for the game to every corner of the globe.
Pele’s decision to support Argentina in the 2022 World Cup was a reflection of his deep understanding of the game and his appreciation for the talents of Lionel Messi. Messi’s performances in the tournament were truly breathtaking, and he cemented his status as one of the greatest players in football history.