SAO PAULO (Reuters) - A cheerful Pele left hospital on Tuesday after a month of treatment for kidney stones and a urinary tract infection, joking that he was fit again and preparing to play for Brazil in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The 74-year old former Santos and Brazil striker spent several days in intensive care this month but said he was not afraid of dying thanks to his home town of Three Hearts.
“I got the chills but I’ve felt that before and I was not to know it was an infection,” he said of the moment a few weeks ago when he was taken to hospital.
“I was worried. But I can’t say I was afraid of dying because I am a man of Three Hearts.
“Rest assured, I am already preparing for the Olympics,” he joked at a news conference shortly before leaving the hospital.
“In the Olympics three over-age players are permitted and I am one of them.”
Doctors said Pele would have to spend a week to 10 days taking it easy and would undergo physiotherapy.
Pele had surgery on his hip last year and was walking gingerly as he left the hospital.
He now devotes most of his time to business ventures and underwent surgery to remove kidney stones on Nov. 13, but was readmitted 10 days later with a urinary tract infection that required dialysis. At one point, he was moved into a hospital wing used for more intensive care.
Pele only has one kidney having had the other removed in the 1970s when he played for New York Cosmos.
The three-times World Cup winner, who is widely regarded as the greatest ever soccer player, thanked his doctors and the fans who sent him good wishes.
“I would like to thank all those who sent messages, from China, Pakistan, almost every country in Europe, I didn’t know that they were all paying attention to my situation,” he told scores of reporters and a national TV audience.
“It is very gratifying.”
Pele won World Cup medals with Brazil in 1958, 1962 and 1970 and 45 titles, including two world club championships, with Santos.
He scored 1,091 of his 1,281 goals for Santos and last week, while in hospital, signed a life-long contract with the club.
Writing by Andrew Downie, editing by Ed Osmond