Thousands of fans line up to see hero Pele’s coffin

Edson Arantes do Nascimento was not born here and did not die here.

But for 19 seasons Pele put this place on the map – so much so that the Brazilian government made it an official national treasure so it couldn’t play anywhere else.

The king’s return to his beloved Santos was greeted with flags, flares and fans chanting his name before sunrise on a blisteringly hot day in the city.

Football icon Pelé, the only player to ever win three World Cups, died on December 29 at the age of 82. A Catholic mass will be celebrated in Santos this morning before his burial in a nearby cemetery.

Moved to the pitch that made Pelé a superstar, his home in Vila Belmiro had banners adorning boards proclaiming “Viva O Rei” (long live the king) and jerseys with his iconic number 10 hanging above every seat in one stand.

Placing him in the center circle for the last time was a little less seamless than fans would ever watch in real life, as the pallbearers had to push back the immaculately placed chairs to make room for the open coffin to be lifted onto the pedestal.

The loved ones said goodbye and his son Edinho said a prayer as they gathered.

As dignitaries began to arrive, led by FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

Speaking to reporters outside, he said: “We’re going to ask every country in the world has named one of its football stadiums after Pelébecause in a hundred years, when children will ask who Pelé was, well, they will remember him all over the world, in a place where goals are scored, where emotions are felt in the stadium, on the football field, where children, boys and girls they can play.

“And we have to make sure that happens.”

The first fans to walk past his coffin stood for hours into the night, desperate not to miss their chance as the doors opened at 10am to reflect on the amazing life.

Saulo from rural Sao Paulo had lost his phone, but he wasn’t about to let it ruin his mood.

He told Sky News it was worth it: “When I saw him lying there I wished it wasn’t him but that is the reality we face today.

“There is no doubt that the man is the king of Pelé. He will live forever in our hearts and memories.”

Read more:
Pele embodied the idea of ​​football as a beautiful game
In pictures: The greatest footballer in history

Thousands of people from all over the world had the same idea to make the pilgrimage, wearing the iconic colors of Brazil or black and white Santos.

One man who lives in New York City but grew up in St. Lucia told us, “Growing up playing soccer, Pelé was one of the first black people to be considered one of the greatest – and everyone on the island wanted to be Pele.”

We stopped an Englishman who was on holiday who said: “It’s a terrible day for Brazil. I grew up with soccer. I love football and I had to come here and share my pride with everyone.”

After sunset, we followed the same route that so many of his idols have traveled and saw huge wreaths of flowers sent by everyone from the Brazilian royal family to state political parties and local philanthropists.

We saw his loved ones still mourning next to his coffin, surrounded by the Brazilian honor guard. And we saw the great man himself, dressed in the Brazilian flag and with an expression of immobility – a world away from his mischievous smile that was so often seen around the world.

As night fell, the line still wound its way through the surrounding streets, and the festival mood showed no signs of stopping. People came with dogs, with family members and friends of all ages.

Brazil’s new president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, will arrive this morning before Pelé’s coffin is carried through the streets of Santos, 24 hours after his arrival.

His coffin will also fit in the home of his 100-year-old mother.

Pelé’s final resting place will be the “vertical cemetery” – a skyscraper just 200 meters from the stadium, close enough to still hear the roar of the crowd.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *