Pele dies: Obama, Stallone and Brazil president-elect pay tribute to Selecao icon

Photo by John Bryson/Getty Images

Barack Obama, Sylvester Stallone and incoming Brazil president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva were among those to pay tribute to footballing icon Pele after his death on Thursday.

The Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital in Sao Paulo confirmed multiple organ failure as the cause of death for the three-time World Cup winner, who is regarded by many as the greatest footballer in history.

Brazil great Pele had been battling colon cancer and was joined by family in hospital after being moved to palliative care when his body stopped responding to treatment earlier in December.

Lionel Messi, Ronaldo Nazario and Cristiano Ronaldo were among numerous high-profile sporting stars to pay tribute to the 82-year-old, while other global figures echoed similar sentiments.

"Pele was one of the greatest to ever play the beautiful game," former United States president Obama wrote on Twitter.

"And as one of the most recognisable athletes in the world, he understood the power of sports to bring people together. Our thoughts are with his family and everyone who loved and admired him."

Brazil president Lula added on social media: "I had the privilege that younger Brazilians didn't have: I saw Pele play, live, at Pacaembu and Morumbi.

"Play? No. I saw Pele give a show. Because when he got the ball he always did something special, which often ended up in a goal."

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) also paid tribute.

"We mark the passing of the legendary Pele, known to many as the king of the 'beautiful game'," NASA posted. "This image of a spiral galaxy in the constellation Sculptor shows the colours of Brazil."

Pele played an integral role as Brazil enjoyed World Cup success in 1958, 1962 and 1970, with no player in the tournament's history lifting the trophy more.

But the iconic forward will also be remembered for a performance on the silver screen, having featured in 1981 film 'Escape to Victory'.

He played Corporal Luis Fernandez in the feature about Allied prisoners of war at a German prison camp during the Second World War, in which those jailed play an exhibition football match against the Germans.

American movie star Stallone, who starred alongside Pele in the film, posted on Instagram: "PELE THE GREAT! Rest in peace! This was a good man."

England's 1966 World Cup winner Bobby Moore also appeared alongside Argentina great Ossie Ardiles, who wrote on Twitter: "The King of Kings has died. Extraordinary player. Unique.

"Three times World Cup winner, more than a thousand goals. My idol when young. He made football the beautiful game and truly international.

"My time playing alongside him in Escape to Victory was a dream come true. RIP Pele."