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Pele Struggles to Hang On

FILE: Brazil fans cheer by a banner celebrating Pele before the World Cup match between Brazil and South Korea at Al Rayyan, Qatar, Dec. 5, 2022.
FILE: Brazil fans cheer by a banner celebrating Pele before the World Cup match between Brazil and South Korea at Al Rayyan, Qatar, Dec. 5, 2022.

Family members spent Christmas with Pele at the Sao Paulo hospital where the legendary footballer is battling worsening cancer as well as kidney and heart problems, according to a social media post by his daughter.

Shortly after midnight, at the start of Christmas Day, Pele's daughter Kely Nascimento posted a picture of the footballer's wife, Marcia Aoki, and other family members gathered at the Albert Einstein Hospital where he is being treated. Pele was not visible in the image.

"Almost all of us. Merry Christmas. Gratitude, love, union, family. The essence of Christmas. We thank you all for all the love and light you send us," Kely wrote.

On Wednesday, the hospital announced Pele's colon cancer was showing "progression" and he needed "more extensive care to treat kidney and heart failure."

Earlier that day, his daughters had announced he would not be home for Christmas.

Fans of the player, considered by many the greatest of all time, have been expressing hope for his recovery since he was hospitalized in Sao Paulo in late November.

Edinho, Pele's son -- who was recently appointed coach of Brazilian Serie B football club Londrina, based in Parana in the north -- arrived on Christmas Eve at the medical center, where he joined his sisters Kely and Flavia Nascimento.

He posted a photo on Instagram showing him holding the football star's hand, captioning it: "Father... my strength is yours."

Edinho, an ex-goalkeeper, arrived a day after having explained his absence at his father's side to local media.

"I would like to be present, but I am committed to my mission here. I'm not a doctor, I couldn't really help much," he said in an interview published on Friday by the daily Estadao.

That same day, Kely shared a photo of herself hugging her 82-year-old father in the hospital with the caption "one more night together."

Pele, born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, has received several messages of support since his hospitalization, including one from the French star Kylian Mbappe, who called on followers to "pray for the King."

Pele took the 1958 World Cup by storm when he was 17 years old, netting a hat trick in the semifinals and two more goals in the final, catapulting his own career and launching the soccer dynasty of the Brazilian national team.

He is the only player in history to have won three World Cups (1958, 1962 and 1970).

In recent years, the man dubbed "The King" has faced deteriorating health and his public appearances have grown rare.

He was hospitalized on November 29 for what his medical team called a re-evaluation of his chemotherapy treatments, which he has been receiving since having surgery to remove a colon tumor in September 2021.