The grandfather of all World Cups, Pelé, is also the big topic at the World Cup match between South Korea and Brazil. The 82-year-old should not be doing well. The first obituaries have already been written, but Pelé is struggling and the assembled World Cup stars fear for him. He is the godfather of all superheroes.

Long before the world of short video clips arrived, analogue photos preserved the past, still capturing a fleeting moment. They immortalize time, show long-gone streets and fashions, show people who look to a future that no longer exists. They are witnesses of all lives that have ever been lived.

Who were these people and what is left of them? Pelé, Brazil’s national idol, still remembers his first World Cup and his dreams as a 17-year-old. A photo shows him at the World Cup in Sweden. He is young, he is incredibly well dressed and on the verge of making history: “In 1958 I walked the streets and thought about fulfilling the promise I had made to my father,” writes the 82-year-old on social media Media: “I know that today many made similar promises and are also looking for their World Cup. I will watch the game in the hospital and cheer for each of you. Good luck.”

Pelé is the first big star of the soccer World Cup. He’s all over Qatar these days. On the Aspire Tower, one of the tallest skyscrapers in the capital Doha, which certainly has a lot of skyscrapers, wishes for a recovery have been written for days. At the press conference before Brazil’s World Cup round of 16 against South Korea, it’s also about Pelé. National coach Tite recalls meeting him, calling him “the representative of humanity.” The country is so attached to him, but not just the country, but the entire football world. It is the starting point of the game as we know it. He is the granddaddy of all GOATS, all the greatest of all time dueled at this Worlds and previous tournaments. “Pray for the king,” writes Kylian Mbappé on Twitter.

The 23-year-old Frenchman has set out to follow the classic path to world fame. Unlike the dominators Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who abdicated at this tournament, he has yet to win a major title in club football. The championships won with Qatar club Paris Saint-Germain in France count even less than the titles of FC Bayern Munich in Germany.

“The French league is not a benchmark. It doesn’t exist,” said former Brazilian international Walter Casagrande Junior, for example, in a recent interview with Javier Cáceres, the noble pen of the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, Ligue 1. Mbappé still has the reigning superhero of the game, however, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have something crucial ahead of them: he is already world champion. In Qatar he is once again more than well in the race with the Équipe Tricolore this year. His World Cup goals eight and nine in the round of 16, in his eleventh World Cup game, bring him close to the first Pelé mark.

The Brazilian scored 12 goals in 14 games in his four tournaments between 1958 and 1970. But another record is still unmatched: three titles at world championships. No one has succeeded since Pelé. Mbappé can at least come close, could already win his second title on December 18, 2022. Maybe even in the final against Brazil.

Pele doesn’t want that. “He will see Brazil become world champions for the sixth time,” says his grandson, Arthur Arantes do Nascimento, on Brazilian TV these days, adding that his grandfather missed Neymar in recent games. He’s back against South Korea now. So far, the 30-year-old has only made one appearance in Qatar. The Serbian iron feet almost kick him out of the tournament in the Lusail. “I had a terrible night. I had so many thoughts. I thought I wouldn’t play at this World Cup anymore,” the superstar recalled that evening after the 4-1 win over South Korea. All worries about Neymar are now forgotten. However, those around Pelé are no less. Against South Korea, the 30-year-old orchestrated a place in the quarterfinals together with the overwhelming Casemiro. His goal to make it 2-0 makes him the third Brazilian to score in three World Cups, after the real Ronaldo and, of course, Pelé. “I’ll do everything for the Selecao to win. That’s my mission here,” says Neymar.

It is a mission that is of course also related to Pelé. As Neymar begins his journey into the world of superstars, he is sitting in Santos President Luis Alvaro’s office. Santos, that’s also Pelé’s hometown club and it’s the club that’s trying to keep Neymar in Brazil a little longer at this moment of the meeting. Chelsea are already courting him, but Alvaro is playing a last trump card, writes “The Athletic” ahead of the World Cup. He points to an empty chair. “This is the chair of the great Brazilian sports hero,” says the president, according to legend: “He has been orphaned since Ayrton Senna’s death. If Neymar rejects Chelsea’s offer, he will take the first step towards sitting in this chair one day. ” He stays at Santos, later joins Barcelona in an opaque deal.

After the 4-1 win against South Korea, Neymar shuffles across the pitch in flip-flops. He’s a good deal closer to the empty chair. But there is still a long way to go. Neymar carries a banner. “Pelé” is written there. Another picture next to it. The king on top of the world. His dreams came true, he kept his promise. Now the whole of Brazil is dreaming. “I believe in the sixth title,” says Lula, the country’s future president, in a video on Instagram: “A hug and health to our idol Pele.”