Football legend Pele wished the Brazilian national team luck Monday for their World Cup last-16 match against South Korea, saying he would be watching from hospital, where the 82-year-old icon has been undergoing treatment.
Fans worldwide have been on edge over the health of the footballer considered by many to be the greatest of all time, after he was hospitalized in Sao Paulo last Tuesday for what doctors say is a respiratory infection and a review of his treatment for colon cancer.
"I'll watch the game from here at the hospital and I'll be rooting for each one of you," Pele, the only player to win three World Cups (1958, 1962 and 1970), told the "Selecao" on Instagram, as they prepared to take the field in Qatar.
He posted a faded color picture of himself as a baby-faced 17-year-old in Stockholm, Sweden, looking dapper in a sweater and slacks on his way to dazzling the planet with his preternatural talent in the first of Brazil's five World Cup titles.
Eight years earlier, seeing his footballer father cry when Brazil lost the 1950 World Cup final at home to Uruguay, Pele had promised to bring the trophy home someday.
"In 1958, in Sweden, I was walking through the streets thinking about fulfilling the promise I made to my father," Pele wrote.
"I know that many of the national team made similar promises and are also looking for their first World Cup. I want to inspire you, my friends... We are on this journey together. Good luck to our Brazil!"
Pele -- whose real name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento -- has been in fragile health in recent years.
Diagnosed with a colon tumor in September 2021, he underwent surgery to remove it the same month and has been receiving chemotherapy.
Doctors say they are now also treating him with antibiotics for his respiratory infection.
His daughter Kely Arantes Nascimento said Sunday the new illness was the result of a Covid-19 infection Pele contracted three weeks ago, despite being fully vaccinated.
She and her sister Flavia told Brazilian TV network Globo that Pele's family and doctors are confident his health is not at grave risk.
"When he gets better, he'll come home," Nascimento said.
Fans of Santos attend a vigil outside the Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital where Brazilian football legend Pele is hospitalized in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Sunday. REUTERS
Legendary Brazilian soccer player Pele waves to the spectators before the start of under-17 boys' final soccer match of Subroto Cup tournament at Ambedkar stadium in New Delhi, India, October 16, 2015. AFP