After the passing of football legend Pelé at the age of 82 was announced this afternoon, tributes have already begun pouring in from around the world of French football in honour of the triple World Cup winner.
On his way to lifting his first World Cup at 17 in 1958, O Rei notably scored a hat-trick against France in the semi-finals, decisively sealing the game when Just Fontaine had scored early on. Pelé, repeated the feat in a friendly played in Paris in 1963, at which point he had already won football’s biggest trophy twice in a row.
“Even if we didn’t always see him play, we would only talk about him. He was more than a man, more than a player, he was the God of football. I’m very, very emotional. This is my life, my story. It’s Pelé, it’s my dreams. I saw his goals, his exploits, and I’ll never forget the World Cup in 1970.”
Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar also paid tribute to his compatriot, who he equalled as the national team’s all-time top scorer at the World Cup: “Before Pelé, football was just a sport. Pelé changed everything. […] He is gone, but his magic will live on. Pelé is eternal!”
A minute’s silence was held before tonight’s games between Marseille and Toulouse, and Nice and Lens.