Sandra Regina Arantes do Nascimento Felinto, 42, who won a five-year court battle that gave her the right to call herself daughter of legendary soccer player Pelé, died today, October 17, from breast cancer, in Santos, a beach resort in São Paulo state, Brazil.
Sandra, a councilwoman in Santos, found out she had cancer on May of last year and had been in Santos’s Hospital Beneficência Portuguesa since October 12.
During a medical checkup doctors had found water in her lungs and decided to admit her to the hospital immediately. She had removed one of her breasts last year, and started chemotherapy, but the disease spread to the other side.
Sandra became famous in 1991 when she started a judicial battle to be recognized as Pelé’s daughter. It took her five years to be able to add Arantes do Nascimento to her name.
í‰dson Arantes do Nascimento, Pelé, fought till the end and only relinquished after a DNA test proved unequivocally that he was Sandra’s father. Pastor Walter Brunelli in his book A filha que o Rei não quis (The Daughter the King Didn’t Want) tells the story of this fight.
Sandra was born on August 24, 1964, in Guarujá, an island just across from Santos, at the time Pelé – already famous – was playing for Santos Futebol Clube. Anízia Machado, her mother, worked as a maid and Sandra’s conception was the result of a fling of the player.
Sandra Regina was just trying to get a law degree. She was assiduous in attending the Assembly of God’s services. Sandra leaves behind her husband Oséas Felinto and their two children: Otávio, 8, and Gabriel, 6.
The mayor of Santos, João Paulo Tavares Papa has decreed three days of mourning to mark her passing away. She was serving her second four-year mandate as councilwoman and she is mainly remembered for her bill allowing poor people to have free DNA tests in cases of paternity disputes.
Pelé, informed through his press office, that he wouldn’t be going to his daughter’s wake or funeral. An aide explained that he never goes to funerals because he doesn’t feel well on such occasions. He has also skipped his father’s and mother’s funeral.
í‰dson Arantes sent two wreaths of flowers, which Anízia Machado, Sandra’s mother, didn’t allow to be placed close to her daughter’s coffin. Many people who had come to the funeral were indignant to hear that Pelé would not show up.
Oséas Felinto, the husband, however, very emotional, told reporters that Pelé is a very busy man and insisted that Sandra didn’t hold any grudge against her father.
The player was informed about his daughter’s death while on his way to a meeting. According to an aide he lamented the death and told that he had prayed a lot for her the previous night.
Pelé had three children with his first wife, Rosemeri Cholbi: Kelly Cristina, Edinho, who is in jail charged with drug trafficking and money laundering, and Jennifer. In 1994 he married Assyrian Lemos, with whom he had the twins Joshua and Celeste.
Besides Sandra, Pelé had one more daughter outside of wedlock: Flávia Kurts, whom he recognized in 1990.