Pelé was not only a shining light as a footballer, the Brazilian also left a lasting impression off the pitch. He only discovered his "final love" after two divorces, in 2010. Pelé had at least seven children, who even argued about it in court.
Married three times, father of at least seven children: A look at Pelé's private life suggests that the football legend who died on Thursday was a lot - but not a child of sadness. Born in 1940, the "King of Football" has acknowledged seven children - one less than Argentina's Maradona, who, in the minds of many football fans around the world, rivals Pele for the title of best footballer of all time. And like Maradona, Pelé's personal life had its downsides.
There is Sandra Machado, who was born in 1964 after Pelé had an affair with a cleaning lady. For a long time, the footballer refused to recognize her as a daughter. After five years of litigation, the courts ruled in Machado's favor in 1996. She wrote a book about her story called The Daughter The King Didn't Want. She died of breast cancer in 2006 at the age of 42. Pelé was later accused by his two grandchildren of "abandoning them intellectually, morally and materially".
His first marriage to Rosemeri Cholbi in 1966 produced three children: daughters Kely Cristina (1967) and Jennifer (1978) and son Edinho (1970). During this time Pelé also had a daughter from another affair: Flavia was born in 1968, her mother is the journalist Lenita Kurtz. Unlike Sandra Machado, Pelé finally recognized her in 2002.
His "official" family followed Pele to New York in 1975, where the footballer ended his career with New York Cosmos. In the early 1980s, Pelé and Cholbi divorced, and their three children initially stayed with their mother in the US metropolis. As a single, Pelé fell in love with the young model Xuxa. She later became a television star in Brazil and for a time was involved with another Brazilian sports idol, Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna, who died in 1994.
The three children from his first marriage later said that Pelé was absent as a father. "When I lived in the US, I had almost no contact with my father," Edinho said in a 2020 interview with Canal Football Club. "I only saw him two or three times a year for birthdays and Christmas. Often he made an appointment to meet us but then didn't come." Pelé's first son eventually returned to Brazil at the age of 16. He followed at least part of his father's career path, became a soccer goalkeeper - but always remained at a rather modest level.
Edinho was best known for his problems with the judiciary. In 2017, he was sentenced to almost 13 years in prison for money laundering in connection with drug trafficking and served several prison terms until he was granted substantial prison time in late 2019. Edinho is now the technical director of football club Londrina in the southern state of Paraná.
At 75 he married for the third time
In 1994 Pelé married a second time: the psychologist and gospel singer Assiria Lemos Seixas. Two years later, they became parents to twins Joshua and Celeste. The couple eventually split after 13 years together. In 2020, Lemos took Pelé to court over unpaid child support payments.
In 2016, 75-year-old Pelé married for the third and final time, this time to 42-year-old businesswoman Marcia Cibele Aoki. He met Aoki in New York in the 1980s and met her again in 2010 in an elevator in São Paulo. Pelé called this relationship the "ultimate love".
(This article was first published on Friday, December 30, 2022.)