Pele is laid to rest in the city where he grew up, became famous and helped make his sport the global capital.
As millions of fans in Brazil and around the world mourned the sports legend.
Before the gold-wrapped casket arrived, attendees sang Pele’s favorite samba.Some of the legends of Pele’s game were not there.
“Where is Ronaldo Nazario? These guys didn’t want to stop their vacation, that’s the problem.”
Another notable absentee was Jair Bolsonaro. Whose term as president ends on December 31. A day earlier, he left the capital Brasilia on a flight to Florida. Skipping the official duty of passing the presidential sash to Lula.
Giovanna Sarmento, 17, waited in line for three hours to see his body laid to rest. He arrived with his father, who wore a Brazil shirt with Pele’s name on it.
“I am not a fan of Santos, neither is my father. But this man invented the Brazilian national team. He made Santos strong, he made it big, how can you not respect him? He is one of the greatest people of all time, we needed to honor him,” he said.
Caio Zalke, 35, an engineer, wore a Brazilian shirt while waiting in line. “Pele is the most important Brazilian of all time. He made the game important for Brazil and he made Brazil important for the world,” he said.
In the 1960s and 70s, Pele was perhaps the most famous athlete in the world. He met presidents and queens, and a civil war was put on hold to watch him play in Nigeria. Many Brazilians credit him with putting the country on the world stage for the first time.
A row of Pele’s number 10 shirts were placed behind a goal, swaying in the city’s summer breeze. A section of the stands was filled with bouquets of flowers held. By mourners and sent from clubs and star players – among. Them Neymar and Ronaldo – from around the world to loudspeakers playing. A song called “U so pele” (“I pele”), which the Brazilian himself recorded. did
The crowd was mostly local, although some came from further afield. Many of the mourners were too young to see Pele play. The mood was light, as people wearing Santos FC and Brazil shirts filtered from the stadium to local bars.
Claudio Carranza, 32, a salesman, said: “I’ve never seen him play, but loving Pele is a tradition passed down from father to son at Santos. I learned his history, saw his goals, and I see how Santos FC is important because he is important. I know the kids of some Santos fans support other teams. But that’s only because they’ve never seen Pele in action. If they had, they would have felt the gratitude I feel now.”
Among them at the stadium was Pele’s best friend Manuel Maria, also a former Santos player.
“If I had all the wealth in the world, I could never repay what this man has done for me and my family,” Maria said. “He was as great a man as he was a player; His legacy, the best of all time, will outlive us all. And it shows in this long line with people of all ages here.”
FIFA president Gianni Infantino told reporters that every country should name a stadium after Pele.
“I came here with a lot of emotion, with sadness, but also with laughter because he gave us a lot of laughs,” Infantino said. “As FIFA, we will pay tribute to the ‘King’ and we will ask the whole world to observe a minute’s silence.”
Another fan and friend in line was Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes.
“It’s a very sad moment, but we can now see the true meaning of this legendary player to our country,” Mendes told reporters. “I have a shirt signed by Pele in my office, a picture of him as a goalkeeper signed by him. DVDs, photos, a large collection of his.”
Pele had been undergoing treatment for colon cancer since 2021. The medical center where he was admitted said he died of multiple organ failure as a result of cancer.
Pele led Brazil to World Cup titles in 1958, 1962 and 1970 and was one of the team’s all-time leading scorers with 77 goals. Neymar tied Pele’s record in this year’s World Cup in Qatar.