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Brazil pays final tribute to soccer giant Pele



Vila Belmiro

An emotional Brazil began paying their final respects to soccer legend Pele on Monday with a wake at the stadium where he first took the world’s breath away with his dazzling skill.

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Thousands of soccer fans and dignitaries slowly filed through Vila Belmiro, home of Pelé’s longtime club Santos, where the coffin with the remains of “O Rei” (The King) was displayed in the center of the field.


President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s office said he would attend the 24-hour wake on Tuesday at 9:00 am (12:00 GMT) to “pay his respects and homage” before a funeral procession and burial later.


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Pelé, a three-time World Cup winner considered the greatest soccer player of all time, died on Thursday at the age of 82 after a battle with cancer.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who attended the wake with the heads of the South American and Brazilian soccer confederations, said the sport’s governing body will ask all member countries to name a stadium after Pele. “Pele is eternal.

He is a global soccer icon,” he told reporters in Santos, a southeastern port city 75 kilometers (45 miles) from Sao Paulo.

Carlos Mota and his 12-year-old son Bernardo had traveled more than 500 kilometers from Rio de Janeiro to pay tribute to their hero.

“My whole childhood was influenced by what Pelé did for Brazil, by his victories in the World Cup. He was a national idol,” Mota, 59, told AFP.

“I have always told my son, there are three indisputable facts: the ball is round, the grass is green and Pelé is the greatest of all time.

Bernardo clearly took the lesson to heart.

“I never saw Pelé play, but I have seen the videos.

He is the greatest player that has ever walked the Earth,” he said.

Vera Lucía, a 75-year-old retiree who had made the trip from Sao Paulo, also braved the blazing sun to get in line, which stretched two kilometers in the early afternoon.

“I am devastated,” she said.

“We always loved watching his games as a family.

Tributes to the ‘eternal’ star Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pelé burst onto the scene at the age of 15, when he made his professional debut for Santos.

He then won the World Cup three times with Brazil, in 1958, 1962 and 1970, the only player in history to accomplish the feat.

Tributes have poured in from around the world since his death, with a who’s who of current and former soccer greats praising his genius for the “beautiful game.

A stream of athletes, politicians, dignitaries and fans is expected in Santos for the wake, though attendance may take a bit of a hit over the New Year’s holiday weekend.

Some 7,000 people had filed past the coffin by mid-afternoon, according to Brazil’s TV Globo.

Pelé’s coffin was carried to the stadium by bearers dressed in black, led by his son Edinho.

The late icon’s widow, Marcia Cibele Aoki, his third wife, whom he married in 2016, wept over his open casket as she reached out to touch his head.

She also placed a rosary in his coffin.

The coffin was draped in the flags of Santos and Brazil and surrounded by white flowers, including bouquets from the likes of Real Madrid or current Brazilian star Neymar, whose father was present.

National mourning Other tributes have poured in from all over Brazil, which celebrated three days of national mourning.

At the headquarters of the Brazilian Football Confederation in Rio, a giant poster with the image of Pelé bears the word “eternal”.

And the inauguration of the newly installed Lula began on Sunday with a minute of silence in memory of Pelé.

Pelé was in fragile health, suffering from kidney problems and then colon cancer.

But he remained active on social media, cheering on Brazil from his hospital bed in Sao Paulo during the World Cup in Qatar and consoling the pre-tournament favorites when they were knocked out in the quarterfinals three weeks before his death.

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The wake will be followed by a funeral procession Tuesday through Santos, including past the home of Pele’s mother, Celeste Arantes, 100, who is still living.

The procession will end at the Santos Memorial Cemetery, where a Catholic funeral will take place before Pelé is buried in a special mausoleum.

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