Pelé: Brazilians finally say goodbye with vigil and casket procession


Brazilians have begun to pay their last respects to the great footballer Pelé with a 24-hour public vigil, which began on Monday at the Estadio Urbano Caldeira, home of his former football club, Santos.

The vigil is open to the public, and mourners began trickling into the stadium Monday morning.

Then on Tuesday, a hearse will carry Pelé’s coffin through the streets of the city of Santos, passing the street where Pelé’s 100-year-old mother, Celeste Arantes, lives.

Pallbearers carry the casket of Brazilian soccer legend Pelé into the center circle of his former club Santos' Vila Belmiro stadium.

The procession will continue to Pelé’s final resting place, the Necrópole Ecumênica Memorial Cemetery, where a private funeral will be held for relatives.

Fireworks greeted the hearse carrying Pelé’s coffin as it left the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo, where the three-time World Cup winner died on Thursday of multiple organ failure due to colon cancer progression.

The hearse was under a heavy police escort as it made its way to the stadium, where his coffin will be placed at midfield.

Aerial view of the Urbano Caldeira stadium before the funeral of soccer legend Pelé.

Fans had already started to line the streets in the early hours of Monday morning, many carrying flags or banners with messages to ‘O King’ (“The King”). “Pelé, you are eternal,” said one on the side of the road.

Inside Santos’ 16,000-seat stadium, a number of large banners had been placed in the stands, with one reading “Long live the King”.

Pelé’s son Edson Nascimento posted a series of stories on Instagram about the trip to Santos.

“Bringing our king home,” read one showing the convoy on the highway. Another showed his hand over the coffin with the caption: “We’re home.”

Famous Brazilians were also in attendance, including players such as Romário and Neymar Jr., and club officials from Real Madrid and São Paulo FC.

According to CNN Brasil, Pelé’s widow, Marcia Aoki, attended the vigil and was seen hugging Edson Nascimento.

People of all ages flocked to the stadium as the gates opened for the memorial, with many wearing the iconic yellow jersey worn by Brazil’s soccer team and Santos FC shirts.

Pelé's coffin will be placed in the center of the Santos stadium pitch.

It was a somber occasion and many fans were visibly moved, tears streaming down their faces as they entered the ground. The public entrance to the stadium was decorated with bouquets of flowers and the Santos FC flag flew at half-mast.

The song Meu Legado (“my legacy”), sung by Pelé, was repeated inside the stadium from the moment his casket entered, while the fans sang the words.

Among the first to arrive to pay their respects was the president of FIFA, Gianni Infantino.

“Pele is eternal,” Infantino told reporters, per Reuters. “FIFA will certainly honor the ‘king’ as he deserves.

“We have asked all football associations in the world to hold a minute’s silence before every match and we will also ask them, in 211 countries, to name a stadium after Pelé. Future generations must know and remember who he was Pele”.

For more than 60 years, Pelé’s name has been synonymous with football. He played four World Cups and is the only player in history to win three, but his legacy went far beyond his trophy and remarkable goalscoring record.

“I was born to play football, just like Beethoven was born to write music and Michelangelo was born to paint,” said Pelé.

Pelé, born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in history and Brazil observed three days of national mourning following his death.

Tributes from sports stars, politicians and musicians around the world have poured in for a man who transcended his sport to become a global icon.

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