Funeral workers uncover the coffin of the late Brazilian soccer great Pele as he lies in state on the pitch during his wake at Vila Belmiro stadium in Santos, Brazil, Monday, Jan. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Thousands of mourners have gathered to pay their respects to Brazil legend Pele who is lying in state at the ground of his former club Santos.
Pele’s coffin was placed in the centre of the pitch at the Urbano Caldeira stadium in Sao Paulo, with fans lining the streets to get inside the ground.
The three-time World Cup winner died at the age of 82 on 29 December.
There will be a procession through the streets of Santos to a private family burial on Tuesday.
“We’re going to ask every country in the world to name one of their football stadiums with the name of Pele,” said Fifa president Gianni Infantino, who attended the memorial.
Brazil’s government declared three days of national mourning after Pele’s death.
Pele, arguably the world’s greatest ever player, had been undergoing treatment for colon cancer since 2021.
There will be no one else like Pele’ – fans pay tribute
Thousands of fans gathered on the streets as the hearse arrived at the stadium on Monday morning, with some queuing overnight to see the coffin.
Former Brazil midfielder Ze Roberto and Pele’s son Edinho helped carry his coffin while floral wreaths were sent by Neymar, Vinicius Junior and Real Madrid.
Beatrice woke up at six in the morning to travel with her husband from the city of Soracaba to Santos, and had been waiting for more than two hours in the queue.
“I’m determined to pay my final respects to him,” the 56-year-old told the BBC.
When asked what Pele meant to Brazilians aside from football, Beatrice said he had helped unite modern Brazil, breaking through racist standards in Brazilian society to open the world of football and wider society to black Brazilians.
Wilson Genio queued with his 13 year old son Miguel, carrying white roses and a family treasure: a Santos Football Club flag personally signed by the legend himself.
The flag reads: “To the family Genio, your friend Pele”.
The Genio men had travelled overnight with the hearse carrying Pele’s body from Sao Paolo. “We followed him all the way. We’ve been here since 3.30am,” they said.
“We could pass another 1,000, 2,000 years and there will no one like Pele. He’s the one and only legend.” (BBC)