Brazilian football icon Pele could miss the Russia 2018 World Cup with “lingering” health problems after a recent setback kept him from presenting the Campeonato Carioca trophy on Monday.
The 77-year-old three-time World Cup winner, an ambassador for the annual Rio de Janeiro football championship, was unable to award the trophy to winners Botafogo.
Despite making the journey to Russia in December for the World Cup 2018 Final Draw in Moscow, he could miss the tournament this summer while he recuperates from lingering problems, Goal reports.
After the draw, Pele said he hoped to visit Russia for the 2018 World Cup and support his beloved Brazil provided he remained in good health.
“I think [Russia] will be very important for [Brazil]. I was talking a lot about what happened in my life. I wish to stay healthy to watch that World Cup. And if God listens to what I say, Brazil will be at least in the final,” he told Eyes On Events.
Pele’s health issues date back to 2012, when he underwent surgery to correct the symptoms of osteoarthritis which ended up causing more complications.
In January this year, he was hospitalized in Brazil after collapsing in the early hours due to exhaustion. He was subsequently forced to cancel an appearance at a Football Writers’ Association (FWA) Tribute Night in London.
Pele’s public appearances have waned in recent times due to the legend’s age. He will now face a tough ask to be fit in time for the World Cup curtain raiser, which sees Russia take on Saudi Arabia on June 14 at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.
Real name Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pele enjoyed a career that spanned more than 20 years, during which he scored more than 1,000 goals, including a record 77 in 92 games for the Brazilian national team.
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Spending the majority of his club career with hometown team Santos, he is the only footballer in history to win a treble of World Cup winner’s medals; first as a 17-year-old in Sweden in 1958, Chile in 1962, and the last in Mexico in 1970.