Fans mourn Pele at public viewing in Brazil stadium

Football fans started arriving at the Vila Belmiro Stadium in the early hours of Monday to pay their last respects
Fans mourn Pele at public viewing in Brazil stadium

Mauricio Savarese, Associated Press

Mourners began paying their respects to Pele in a solemn procession past his coffin at the Vila Belmiro Stadium in his home town of Santos on Monday.

The Brazilian football great died on Thursday after a battle with cancer. He was 82.

Pele’s coffin was placed on the field where he scored scored some of the best goals of his career. Mourners walked past his casket in the 16,000-seat stadium outside Sao Paulo.

Vila Belmiro was decorated with Brazilian flags and No 10 shirts that became popular after Pele started wearing them for Santos and Brazil.

Brazil Pele
Edinho touches the forehead of his father, Brazilian football great Pele, during his funeral at the Vila Belmiro stadium in Santos, Brazil on Monday (Andre Penner/AP/PA)

The stands filled up with bouquets of flowers placed by mourners and sent by clubs and star players — Neymar and Ronaldo among them — from around the world as loudspeakers played a song named Eu Sou Pele (I Am Pele) that was recorded by the Brazilian himself.

His funeral was scheduled start at 10am local time, and the burial will take place in a vertical cemetery 600 metres away on Tuesday.

Fans started arriving at the stadium in the early hours of Monday to pay their last respects to Edson Arantes do Nascimento, globally known as Pele.

Among them was Fifa President Gianni Infantino, who told journalists that every country should name a stadium after the three-time World Cup winner.

“I am here with a lot of emotion, sadness, but also with a smile because he gave us so many smiles,” Mr Infantino said. “As Fifa, we will pay a tribute to the ‘King’ and we ask the whole world to observe a minute of silence.”

Another mourner was Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes.

“It is a very sad moment, but we are now seeing the real meaning of this legendary player to our country,” Mr Mendes told journalists. “My office has shirts signed by Pele, a picture of him as a goalkeeper, also signed by him, DVDs, photos, a big collection of him.”

Mr Mendes also said Pele was a humble man despite his global fame, and that he deserves every tribute.

Pele Entertainment
Pele died in Sao Paulo on Thursday (Luca Bruno/AP/PA)

Caio Zalke, 35, an engineer, wore a Brazil shirt as he waited in line. “Pele is the most important Brazilian of all time. He made soccer important for Brazil and he made Brazil important for the world,” he said.

Claudio Carrança, 32, a salesman, said: “I never saw him play, but loving Pele is a tradition that goes from father to son in Santos. I learned his history, saw his goals, and I see how Santos FC is important because he is important. I know some Santos fans have children supporting other teams. But that’s just because they never saw Pelé in action. If they had, they would feel this gratitude I feel now.”

After Pele’s funeral, his casket will be ushered through the streets of Santos before his burial. Brazil President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and other dignitaries are expected to attend.

Pele had undergone treatment for colon cancer since 2021. The medical centre where he had been treated said he died of multiple organ failure as a result of the cancer.

Pele led Brazil to World Cup titles in 1958, 1962 and 1970 and remains one of the team’s all-time leading scorers with 77 goals. Neymar tied Pele’s record during this year’s World Cup in Qatar.

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