By Edward Simons
SANTOS, Brazil (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Emotional crowds greeted Brazilian soccer legend Pele on Tuesday as they lined the streets of Santos to see his coffin carried to its final resting place from the city’s stadium where 230,000 people filed past his coffin open.
Young and old embraced as the funeral procession wound its way through the streets of the coastal city for hours, with some fans weeping and others cheering and beating the drums for a national hero who rose from barefoot poverty to become one of the most great and famous athletes in modern history.
“It is an irreparable loss for Brazil,” said new Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. “Pele, in addition to being the best footballer in the world, was a humble and simple man”.
Pele died last week at the age of 82 after battling colon cancer for a year. He was buried in the city’s Ecumenical Memorial Necropolis, a 14-story vertical cemetery overlooking Santos’ soccer field that made him a star.
Pelé’s funeral procession had left the city’s Vila Belmiro stadium, home of Santos Football Club, on Tuesday morning. Pelé played for the team from 1956 to 1974, scoring more than 1,000 goals. During a 24-hour vigil fans lined up for hours to pay their respects, even during the night.
One of the most moving moments on Tuesday was when the fire truck carrying his coffin stopped in front of the house of Pele’s centenary mother. The crowd cheered and sang “Pele is our king” before maintaining a minute of silence.
Pelé’s sister, Maria Lucia Nascimento, 78, watched in tears from a balcony and thanked the crowd in a brief television interview.
Pele’s son Edson Cholbi Nascimento addressed the crowd near the cemetery as fireworks greeted the arrival of the casket and mourners sang the Santos anthem.
“I wanted on behalf of the whole family to thank you all for all the love, respect,” she said. “It’s an honor, it’s a great pride. Thanks again. Now he will rest”.
The mausoleum where Pele now lies will be open to the public within seven days, the cemetery said.
On the streets of Santos, the city of 430,000 where Pele lived for most of his life, some struggled to come to terms with his loss.
“I’m still trying to figure this out. No matter how much we prepare, we’re never ready to say goodbye,” said Pele fan Marcelo Caverna. “We are not just saying goodbye to our king, we are saying goodbye to a genius, a legend of the Brazilian people.”
“You can see that the whole city has stopped. The whole world has stopped,” said mourner Ezequias Leonardo.
STADIUM WAKE UP
FIFA President Gianni Infantino was one of the first to attend the stadium vigil on Monday and said he would ask football associations around the world to name a stadium after Pelé, the only man to have won the FIFA Cup three times. Gamer world.
A number of football stars attended the vigil, including former Brazil midfielder Ze Roberto, who helped place Pelé’s coffin in center field on Monday.
“Long live the king,” read a giant banner inside the stadium.
Lula had stood for about 30 minutes next to Pele’s coffin, draped with a Brazilian flag, in the center of the soccer field and comforted Pele’s family members.
Former footballer Clodoaldo, who played alongside Pelé at Santos and for the Brazil national team, told reporters: ‘I went to the mourners … and kissed them all, as if Pelé were here. I’m sure which is what he would do.”
“I kissed each of them on the head. It’s Pelé’s way of giving thanks for everything that’s happening today.”
(This story was re-archived to fix a typo in the word “coastal” in paragraph 2)
(Reporting by Eduardo Simoes; Additional reporting by Lais Morais; Writing by Gabriel Araujo and Peter Frontini, Editing by Alexandra Hudson)