Brazil prepares to bury Pele in the city he turned into a football mecca


SANTOS, Brazil (AP) January,3 It’s been 45 years since Pele played his last match and it’s hard to imagine modern football or Brazil without him.

17-year-old Geovana Salmento said he waited in line for three hours to see his body resting in the stadium where he played most of his career. She came with her father, who wore a Brazilian shirt with Pele’s name on it.

Pele will be buried on Tuesday in the city where he grew up, rose to fame and helped make him a global football capital, after a Catholic mass was held at Vila’s Belmiro stadium. His coffin was carried through the streets of Santos to a nearby cemetery. Brazil’s newly elected president, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, is set to take office for a third term after Sunday’s comeback win and is expected to arrive at the Vila Vermiro just before his coffin is removed from the stadium.

The soccer star died Thursday at the age of 82 after a battle with cancer, the only player to win three world championships.

Thousands of mourners, including high school students and Supreme Court judges, passed Pele’s body Monday on the centuries-old field where he turned his hometown team into Brazil’s premier team. Pele’s coffin, covered in the flags of Brazil and his FC Santos, was placed in the midfield of his Vermiro. The legendary 16,000-seat stadium was surrounded by wailing fans and covered in Pelé decorations. Fans leaving the stadium said they waited in line for three hours and stood in the heat.

His engineer, Caio Zalke, 35, stood in line wearing a Brazilian jersey. “Pele is the most important Brazilian of all time. He made football important for Brazil, he made Brazil important for the world,” he said. In the 1960s and 70s, Pele was probably the most famous athlete in the world. He met presidents and queens and the civil war in Nigeria was interrupted to see him play. Many Brazilians believe he put his country on the world stage for the first time.

A row of shirts with Pele’s number 10 jersey was placed behind his one at the gate, and the city’s summer breeze was blowing. Part of the stand was laid by mourners and filled with bouquets sent from all over the world by clubs and stars, including Neymar and Ronaldo, while speakers chanted “Eu sou Pelé” (“I am Pelé”). ), the Brazilian recorded himself. Most of them were locals, although some came from far away. Many mourners were too young to see Pele play. The mood picked up as people in Santos FC and Brazil shirts flooded the stadium into local bars.

Among those present at the stadium was Pele’s best friend Manoel Maria, a former Santos player.

“Even if I had all the wealth in the world, I could never give back what this man did for me and my family. He was a player and a great person at the same time. The best ever. His legacy lives on for all of us. And you can see it in the long lines of people of all ages here.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino told journalists that all countries should name their stadiums after Pele.