Pelé: "I Played For 30 Years Without Any Health Issue, Now God Has Sent Me The Bill"

In an exclusive interview, he says to be afraid of death and plans to attend the 2022 World Cup, but only as a fan

Alex Sabino Paulo Passos
Pelé poses during his interview for Folha at Museu Pelé, in Santos, São Paulo - Folhapress

Sitting on a chair inside the museum with his name, in Santos (48 miles from São Paulo), Pelé, 78, watches the procession. It's a pilgrimage of people waiting hours at a time for a chance to see him and ask for an autograph or a photo. The requests never seem to end, even if his assistant Pepito Forns tries to stop them.

It's been four decades since Pelé retired his soccer shoes, but Brazilians still revere the soccer legend, and until recently, his expertise made him a sought-after TV commentator. However, his health, fragile after three surgeries in the last few years, stopped him from traveling to Russia for the latest FIFA World Cup. He promises to be in Qatar, in 2022. But he warns it will be his last.

The king, as he is called in Brazil, divides his time between physical therapy, his family and his favorite pastime: watching soccer games on TV.

He still finds time for professional commitments with sponsors and the Pelé Foundation, founded to raise funds for social projects for disadvantaged children ("help the poor little children," he famously said after scoring this thousandth goal in 1969).

Pelé also said that Brazil should support president-elect Jair Bolsonaro (PSL) and his physical health. "I don't feel pain or weakness. God decided to send his bill now, after 30 years playing soccer without suffering any injury. But I'm getting better," he laughs.

Translated by NATASHA MADOV

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