Lula and Obama join dozens of fans who praise the late “football king” for his historic influence on and off the field.

Politicians, athletes, clubs and commentators have joined in pouring tributes for the departed Brazilian football legend Pelewho praised his contributions and stressed that his memory will live on as long as the game is played.

Pele, the only three-time World Cup winner in history, died Thursday at the age of 82 after a long battle with cancer.

Brazil’s president-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said he had a privilege that many younger Brazilians have not experienced: seeing Pele play live.

“Few Brazilians took the name of our country as far as he… There has never been a number 10 like him. Thank you, Pele,” Lula wrote in a social media post, referring to Pele’s jersey number.

Former US President Barack Obama also praised Pele, calling him one of the greatest to ever play the beautiful game.

“As one of the most recognizable athletes in the world, he understood the power of sport to bring people together. Our thoughts are with his family and all who loved and admired him,” Obama said in a tweet.

Pele wash known as “the king”, scoring hundreds of goals during his star-studded career. His signature tricks and quicksilver speed helped revolutionize the game and boost the popularity of football worldwide.

In 2000, the world football association FIFA named him player of the century, along with Diego Maradona from Argentina, who died in 2020.

“Forever a legend. Rest in peace, Pelé,” Italian club AS Roma wrote on Twitter, as Manchester United thanked the Brazilian footballer for bringing joy to fans around the world.

London-based Chelsea FC on Thursday called Pele a “master of the beautiful game”, and England defender Harry Maguire said Pele was a “role model on and off the pitch”.

Pele had been a “champion for sport” for the United Nations cultural organization, UNESCO, since 1994 and helped promote physical education around the world.

Unesco said on Thursday Pele has “worked relentlessly to promote sport as a tool for peace,” adding that he will be greatly missed.

“We are deeply saddened by Pele’s passing. We extend our condolences to the Brazilian people and the football family,” the organization said in a tweet.

Pele’s playing career spanned more than 20 years, ending with the now-disbanded New York Cosmos in 1977. But even for generations after he hung up his boots, Pele remained synonymous with football.

“The king of football has left us only his legacy will never be forgotten”, said French football star Kylian Mbappé, who in 2018 became the first teenager to score in a World Cup final since Pelé.

Manchester City striker Erling Haaland summed up Pele’s influence on football by saying, “Anything you see a player do, Pele did first.”

US Congressman Adriano Espaillat also said Pele was a “transformative figure in 20th century sports” with the level of global celebrity he achieved. “May his legacy continue to inspire generations and may his talent be remembered forever. Rest in power,” Espaillat said in a post on social media.

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