Brazil legend Pele 'depressed' over mobility issues

Pele, seen at the Guarulhos International Airport near Sao Paulo last year, is reliant on a walker these days, with the 79-year-old Brazilian's health beginning to take a toll on him. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Pele, seen at the Guarulhos International Airport near Sao Paulo last year, is reliant on a walker these days, with the 79-year-old Brazilian's health beginning to take a toll on him. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

RIO DE JANEIRO • Football legend Pele is experiencing "a kind of depression" and barely leaves home any more because health problems have left him unable to walk normally, his son said in an interview published on Monday.

"He's pretty fragile in terms of his mobility... and that makes him suffer a kind of depression," Edinho said of his 79-year-old father, who has had a series of health problems in recent years, in an interview published on sports news website Globoesporte.com.

"Just imagine, he's the 'King', he was always such an imposing figure, and now he can't walk normally. He gets very shy, very embarrassed about that.

"He doesn't want to go out, be seen, or do practically anything that involves leaving the house.

"He is very sheepish, reclusive."

Pele, the pride of Brazilian football and the only player to win three World Cups (1958, 1962 and 1970), is considered by many to be the greatest footballer of all time.

But he has been in and out of hospital in recent years for various health issues.

He never fully recovered from one of his hip operations, leaving him dependent on a walker, Edinho said.

"He's doing a bit better than when he was in a wheelchair recently but he still has a hard time getting around," said the 49-year-old.

Pele's public appearances have also grown increasingly rare with age. Last April he travelled to Paris for a promotional appearance with French rising star Kylian Mbappe, but had to be hospitalised shortly after for kidney problems.

In 2014, he was placed in intensive care for dialysis after contracting a severe urinary infection.

FROM ROYALTY TO RECLUSE

Just imagine, he's the 'King', he was always such an imposing figure, and now he can't walk normally. He gets very shy, very embarrassed about that. He doesn't want to go out, be seen.

EDINHO, son of Brazilian legend Pele, on his father's state of mind.

The Brazilian great, whose real name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento, has only one kidney, after a broken rib during a match forced doctors to remove the other.

He has also suffered a series of hip problems.

Edinho said despite those issues, his father, who will be 80 in October, is "doing well" physically.

Pele spent 18 years at Brazilian side Santos from 1956 to 1974, making 1,281 appearances and scoring 1,091 goals, although not all of those came in official matches.

He then moved to the New York Cosmos in 1975 and played two more years before his retirement.

He remains Brazil's record scorer with 77 goals.

This summer will mark the 50th anniversary of the striker's third World Cup title, won in Mexico in 1970 with what many believe is the greatest Brazilian team of all time.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2020, with the headline 'Brazil legend Pele 'depressed' over mobility issues'. Print Edition | Subscribe