Numerous mourners stood in line all night long to pay their respects to Pele, a superstar in Brazil who is lying in state at the stadium of his old team, Santos.
At Sao Paulo’s Urbano Caldeira stadium, Pele’s coffin lies in the middle of the field, and people have lined the streets to enter the stadium.
Three-time World Cup champion Pele passed away on December 29th at the age of 82.
He had been battling colon cancer since 2021 and was widely regarded as the greatest footballer of all time.
After his passing, the Brazilian government proclaimed three days of national mourning, and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the country’s new president, will go to Santos to pay his respects when the 24-hour vigil comes to an end.
Gianni Infantino, the president of Fifa, spoke at the tribute on Monday and pledged to ask every nation to give Pele’s name to one of its football stadiums.
“There will never be another Pele”: admirers pay homage
On Monday, when the hearse carrying Pele’s casket got close to the stadium, thousands of fans gathered in the streets.
Ze Roberto, a former midfielder for Brazil, and Edinho, Pele’s son, assisted in carrying the casket, while Real Madrid and the Brazilian internationals Neymar and Vinicius Junior brought floral tributes.
People wept, cheered, and even dropped to the ground in adoration of the man who transformed football and made Brazil renowned.
Joao Paulo Machado, who lives in Santos, told BBC South America reporter Katy Watson, “I saw him perform several times in the stadium.”
“In my opinion, he is the best advocate for this nation in the entire globe. When you go overseas, people will often remark that you are from Pele’s nation.”
Beatrice, a Pele admirer, holds a rose as she waits in line to see Pele lying in state.
For more than three hours, Beatrice waited in line to view Pele lying in state.
Marcelo Teixeira, the former president of Santos FC, referred to Pele as a “great human being.”
He added, “He wasn’t simply the greatest athlete of the century; he also had a compassionate heart. “He always treated people with great sincerity and humility.”
Beatrice had waited in line for more than two hours after waking up at six in the morning to go with her husband from the city of Soracaba to Santos.
The 56-year-old told the BBC, “I’m resolved to pay my last respects to him.”
Marcela Buono, who used to live in Santos but now lives in Miami, also went back to pay her respects.
She remarked, “We grew up with him.”He used to go to this grocery store every day. For us, that was ordinary. He always did a great job of signing for the youngsters. “He was a remarkable individual and an inspiration.”
Wilson Genio stood in line with his son Miguel, 13, while carrying a Santos banner that said, “To the family Genio, your buddy Pele.”
The hearse that was transporting Pele’s remains from Sao Paulo had been traveling with the Genios all night.
Santos supporters Wilson Genio and his son Miguel proudly display the autographed Santos flag that Pele personally gave them as they stood in line to pay their respects. Wilson Genio said, “The whole city is pulled to the stadium.”
Even though Santos is sweltering (about 30 degrees), it seems like the entire city is drawn to the Vila Belmiro stadium, where Pele’s coffin rests.
To pay their last respects, a constant stream of mourners walks through the center; occasionally, a brief round of applause breaks out as they pass his casket. People have traveled from all around Brazil and abroad. I see a Dutch pin and a Mexican flag.
Numerous news helicopters are circling in the sky. People are wearing the yellow shirts of Brazil’s national team or the black and white striped jerseys of Pele’s Santos Football Club.
A line of tens of thousands crawls over six city blocks and miles outside the stadium.
Men have removed their shirts to wear them as bandanas around their heads. Others are fanning themselves with the special-edition tribute newspaper. Some people have come prepared with their tributes, hats, and umbrellas.
A Mexican wave occasionally swells through. “Pele! Rei!” is occasionally chanted. However, for the most part, the crowds are patiently waiting in the heat for their turn to say goodbye.