Thousands say goodbye to Pelé

Brazil finally bids farewell to Pelé: the public wake for the football legend has begun in Santos.

Pelé lay peacefully in his coffin, hands clasped, body covered in white flowers – and thousands finally said goodbye to their football king.

Many people cried at the public wake in Santos, including small children who never saw Pele play. They proudly held his jersey with the number ’10’ in the sky, Brazil paid their last respects to their hero for 24 hours.

At 10:05 a.m. local time, the doors to the Estadio Urbano Caldeira of “his” FC Santos opened to applause and shouts from Pelé, where Pelé used to give the Brazilians so many moments of happiness with his dribbling, tricks and goals.

The fans walked past the embalmed corpse, they crossed themselves, a guard of honor in historical uniforms stood at the coffin in the middle of the field, wreaths of flowers were sent from all over the world – including from superstar Neymar. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will also attend the wake on Tuesday.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino was also there

FIFA President Gianni Infantino also traveled to Santos. “Pele is eternal. We are here in great emotion and sadness, but also with a smile – because he gave us many of them,” said Infantino: “We will appeal to all football associations in the world to have at least one stadium in the country after Pele The youth, the generations to come, should know and remember who Pele was and what joy he brought to the world.”

The first fans arrived in front of the stadium on New Year’s Day in the afternoon, around 20 hours before the gates opened, and they slept in the queue – so that they could be the first to say goodbye to their idol. “We have lost our king. The greatest in the world,” said one. Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pelé’s real name, was the only player in history to have won the world championship three times. According to official figures, he scored 1,283 goals in his 21-year career, most of them in Santos.

Pelé’s mother does not know about his death

During the night, Pelé’s coffin was transported the 75 km from Sao Paulo to the port city, when hundreds lined the streets – fans waved huge flags and lit fireworks. His son Edinho wrote on Instagram in the early hours of the morning: “We’re taking the king home.”

The memory of Pelé, who sold peanuts on the street as a young boy to make ends meet for his family before he became arguably the best footballer in history, was previously honored with a three-day national mourning. After a funeral procession through the streets of Santos, which is also supposed to pass by the house where Pele’s 100-year-old mother lives, the idol will be buried with the family on Tuesday.

And while Brazil weeps and says goodbye, Celeste Arantes, Pelé’s mother, doesn’t even know that her world-famous son died on Thursday at the age of 82 after suffering from cancer. “She is unconscious,” said Pele’s sister, Maria Lucia do Nascimento.