Pelé Will Not Attend Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony, Citing Health Issues

Pelé said in a statement that he's not "physically able to attend the opening of the Olympics"

Photo: Jonathan Hordle/REX/Shutterstock

Brazil’s most iconic athlete is taking a pass.

Pelé – the Brazilian athlete who is widely regarded as the greatest professional footballer in the history of the game – will not be at Friday’s Opening Ceremony for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

The 75-year-old cited health issues as the reason for missing the ceremony, saying he’s not “physically able to attend the opening of the Olympics.”

His statement, issued Friday and reported by the Associated Press, went on to explain that the decision was his alone.

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“Only God is more important than my health,” he said. “In my life, I’ve had fractures, surgeries, pain, hospital stays, victories and defeats. And I’ve always respected those who admire me.”

He apologized for disappointing Brazilians and his fans, saying “as a Brazilian, I ask God to bless all who participate in this event.”

The soccer star, who was born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, was rumored to be the final carrier of the Olympic torch, lighting the Olympic cauldron to open the Games. There’s no word on who will take his place.

He had an opportunity to touch the Rio torch in July, displaying his Medal of the Olympic Order from the International Olympic Committee as he grabbed the flame at the Pelé Museum in Santos in São Paulo on the final fortnight before the games.

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In his 21-year career, Pelé scored a total of 1,283 goals, earning him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. He has the distinction of being the only player in the history of the game to win three World Cup winner medals – another Guinness record.

He’s known by many nicknames in Brazil, including “The Black Pearl,” “The King of Football,” “King Pelé, and “The King.” He retired from the game in 1977.

To learn more about all Olympic hopefuls, visit The Rio Olympics begin Friday on NBC.

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