SAO PAULO: A beaming Pele was discharged from a Sao Paulo clinic on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila), joking about plans to play in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics after recovering from a kidney complaint that left him in intensive care.
The Brazilian football legend’s health had left the soccer-mad nation on tenterhooks since his admission to the clinic just over a fortnight ago.
But the 74-year-old icon of Brazilian football’s golden age assured his compatriots that while he had given a fright by the health scare he had always been confident of recovering.
“I wasn’t afraid of dying as I am a man with three hearts,” the three-time World Cup-winner joked, alluding to his birthplace, Tres Coracoes, which means “three hearts” in Portuguese.
Grinning broadly despite walking somewhat gingerly and having clearly lost some weight, Pele told reporters he felt fit enough to play for Brazil in the Rio Olympics in 2016.
“I am preparing for the Olympics! Three professionals can play in the Olympics. I’m one of the three!”
Thanking his medical team, Pele, who earlier in November underwent kidney stone treatment at the same clinic before returning 10 days later after complaining of abdominal pain, admitted he had had a “fright” at first after he was briefly placed in intensive care.
A real fright
“It was a real fright. We were at the Pele museum in Santos when I caught an infection and couldn’t attend an autograph signing session.
“But thank God I am well, I’m better now,” he said, thanking the many well-wishers from around the world who had passed on their regards during the past two weeks.
“I was very touched to receive messages from China, Pakistan, countries across Europe. I didn’t know so many people were keeping abreast of my situation.
“And of course I especially thank Brazilians for always supporting me. It’s good to know that as well as God’s help I have the support of so many people around the world,” he told a news conference at the Albert Einstein hospital.
The star was hospitalized on November 24 with a suspected urinary tract infection requiring antibiotics.
Three days after his admission, the hospital placed the man nicknamed “O Rei” — “The King” — in intensive care after his condition became “clinically unstable,” briefly alarming fans.
Some Brazilian media reported Pele had septicemia, a blood infection, after he initially failed to respond to treatment.
But the clinic stopped renal assistance three days later and moved Pele to semi-intensive care after extensive tests.
Pele’s doctor, Dr. Fabio Nasri, told reporters bacteria had caused inflammation, prompting the precautionary move into intensive care, adding he had remained conscious throughout.
Dr. Nasri indicated Pele “will now undergo a period of rehabilitation and have to take things easily for ten days. Then there will be physiotherapy before he undergoes fresh tests.”
Addressing Tuesday’s conference with girlfriend Marcia Aoki at his side, the star, born Edson Arantes do Nascimento on October 23, 1940, said thoughts of football and music had kept his spirits up.
“I wrote a few lyrics — one is a secret for the Olympics,” indicated Pele, who on leaving intensive care last week was quick to request his guitar be brought to his room.
Pele has only one kidney after the other was removed following a rib injury he suffered while playing for the New York Cosmos in the 1970s, his agent Jose “Pepito” Fornos told AFP.
Pele was named athlete of the 20th century by the International Olympic Committee in 1999 and he helped Brazil to world titles in 1958, 1962 and 1970.
Widely regarded as the best footballer ever, Pele won his first World Cup at just 17, scoring twice in the final win over hosts Sweden.
Although injured early on in 1962, when Brazil retained the trophy, he scored in Brazil’s 1970 final win over Italy.
Pele ended his career with a spell in the then-embryonic US league with the New York Cosmos and scored 77 goals in 91 games for Brazil and a total 1,281 in his career. AFP