Pele is eternal: Brazil says a final goodbye to the soccer legend

Eva Deschamps / January 3, 2023


President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will be one of the last to pay tribute to Pele on Tuesday as the whole of Brazil prepares to say a final farewell to the soccer legend who will be buried later today.


Lula, who took office on Sunday, is expected in the city of Santos, in the southeast of the country, to "pay tribute to Pele and in solidarity with his family" at 09:00 local time (12:00 GMT), one hour before the end of the funeral vigil started 24 hours earlier.


Pele and in solidarity with his family" at 09H00 local, one hour before the end of the funeral vigil begun 24 hours earlier.


Then the funeral procession will cross Santos and will pass in particular in front of the house of the mother of Pelé, Celeste Arantes. She is 100 years old but has cognitive problems and is not aware of her son's death.


Pele's remains will then be taken to his final resting place, a specially erected mausoleum in a cemetery, for a Catholic rite ceremony in strict family privacy.


On Monday, thousands of fans and soccer dignitaries, including FIFA President Gianni Infantino, gathered in front of Pele's black coffin set up in the center of the FC Santos stadium, the club where he played from 1956 to 1974.


"Pele is eternal. He is a global soccer icon," Infantino said Monday, noting that soccer's governing body would ask all member countries to name a stadium after Pele.


Antonio Carlos Pereira da Silva, a 36-year-old artist, said he arrived at midnight to be among the first to walk past the open casket covered with a tulle veil where the man many consider the greatest footballer in history, the only one to have won the World Cup three times in 1958, 1962 and 1970, lies.


"If I said I didn't cry when he died, I would be lying," he told AFP. "Pele taught us so many things. Not only in Brazil, but in the whole world.


Tributes have poured in from around the world since his death, with the biggest names in soccer, both current and former, hailing his genius for the "beautiful game."


Inside the stadium, fans of Pele advanced all day Monday slowly and quietly to the large white canopy where the coffin is displayed.


Arriving early, Pele's third wife, Marcia Cibela Aoki, dressed in black and in tears, placed her hand on the head of the footballer she married in 2016. Three of Pele's six surviving children were present.


She also placed a rosary in his coffin draped with the flags of FC Santos and Brazil.


Relatives paid an emotional tribute to her, holding hands around her coffin in prayer.


Dozens of wreaths, sent by soccer personalities like Paris SG star Neymar or foreign clubs like Real Madrid, were placed around the coffin.


He "inspired all generations, he was always a reference", said the father of Neymar, the current number 10 of the Seleçao retained in Paris, who equaled the number of goals of Pele in the national team (77) during the recent World Cup in Qatar.


In the 16,000-seat Vila Belmiro stadium, three giant banners placed in the stands show Pele's back with his famous number 10 shirt, and two others with the inscription "Long live the king" and "Pele 82 years ».


Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known as Pele, spent a month in Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo until his death on Thursday at 82 years old from kidney and heart failure, bronchopneumonia and adenocarcinoma of the colon, according to the death certificate published by local media.


Until the end he remained active on social networks, encouraging Brazil from his hospital bed during the World Cup in Qatar, consoling the seleçao after its defeat in the quarterfinals, three weeks before his death.

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