Ailing Brazilian soccer great Pele says he is getting ‘closer to the goal’

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FILE PHOTO: Brazilian soccer legend Pele laughs during the inauguration of a refurbished soccer field at the Mineira slum in Rio de Janeiro

SAO PAULO – Former Brazilian soccer player Pele, not long out of the hospital after surgery to remove a tumour, told fans on Wednesday to start celebrating his life because he was getting “closer to the goal.”

“I suggest you start to catch your breath to celebrate with me, because with each passing day I get closer to the goal,” Pele wrote on Twitter.

He did not give any details, but the former Brazil, Santos and New York Cosmos player, who will be 81 on Oct. 23, has been in poor health for some time.

He is undergoing chemotherapy following September’s tumour surgery.

That ailment came after hip and kidney problems as well as what his son Edinho last year said was a bout with depression, something Pele later denied. 

Widely considered to be one the greatest players of all time, Pele is the only soccer player to hold three World Cup winner’s medals, lifting the trophy with Brazil in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

He scored more than 1,000 goals in a glittering career and transcended sport to become of the most recognizable faces on the planet.

(Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Mike Collett-White)