The funeral procession with Pelé’s body passed the house of the former footballer’s mother, Celeste, who is 100 years old. The elderly woman did not attend the vigil due to her health conditions. According to the broadcaster CNN Brasil, at least 200,000 people are participating in the procession through the streets of Santos, the coastal city in the state of Sao Paulo for whose club he played ‘O Rei’. The champion of ‘Selecao’ and Paris Saint-Germain, Neymar – considered by many to be Pelé’s direct heir – did not attend the funeral but sent a wreath with a special message for the three-time world champion.
Thousands of people paid their last respects to Pele, whose body is veiled in Vila Belmiro, Santos’ stadium. Among the personalities present was the new Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who arrived by helicopter. A long line of supporters and admirers was observed from the seven clubs (11 in Italy) outside the football facility, in the center of which, lying on the pitch, is the coffin of the three-time world football champion. ‘O Rei’ died last Thursday at the age of 82, at the Albert Einstein hospital in Sao Paulo, where he had been hospitalized for a month due to colon cancer. The vigil open to the public should end at 10 am (2 pm Italian), when a procession will begin through the streets of Santos, a coastal city in the state of Sao Paulo, heading towards the Memorial cemetery of the ecumenical necropolis.
Lula, who was sworn in as president on Sunday, made the first trip of his term outside of Brasilia to pay “homage to Pele” “and in solidarity with his family,” the presidency said.
Pele Eternal. It could only be like this, the people who loved him so much today paid Santos their last farewell to their King, in the stadium where the legend was born, the Vila Belmiro, home of the team of a city on the Paulista coast which is the best footballer in history made known to the world. Under the Brazilian summer sun, with a temperature that fluctuated between 29 and 32 degrees, tens of thousands of people, not only from Santos but also from other cities, formed a kilometer-long queue to enter from the entrances n .2 and 3 of the stadium, those reserved for the ‘torcida’, the common people. No one complained or was tempted to leave, and there were people who had camped out since the night before just to be sure of getting in, almost all dressed in Seleçao or Santos shirts. Also in line was Nicanor Ribeiro, a Pelé impersonator who recounted, moved, how “my King whom I have met three times” helped him win the fight against alcoholism.
A wave of great collective emotion swept over Brazil, and Fifa president Gianni Infantino, one of the first VIPs (he slightly preceded Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan) to arrive at the wake on the Santos field, where the coffin with Pelé’s body had been carried by the employees and by his son Edinho, who now coaches Londrina in Serie B, and by Zé Roberto. The latter, now 48, wore the shirts of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich but today he returned to where his heart took him, namely to Santos where he too wore the shirt with the number 10, the same one that Pelé did not want that it was withdrawn, as confirmed today by the former president of the club Marcelo Teixeira, a friend of O Rei with whom he had discussed the subject.
Outside the gates of Vila Belmiro, while many prayed in line, including Paulo Cesar Lima, world champion at Mexico ’70, inside the Infantino stadium he instead launched a suggestive proposal: “like Fifa, now we will ask – he said – that everyone the countries of the world have a stadium named after Pele, so that even the children understand what he was for football”. Meanwhile, on the fields of all the national federations affiliated to the world one, including that of the Italian Serie A on Wednesday, a minute’s silence in memory of O Rei is and will be observed. Pelé is Eternal, as it is also written on the T-shirts that street vendors sell near the ‘Peixe’ plant, and Santos could not forget it even in the euphoria of New Year’s Eve.
Thus, as a sign of mourning, the ban on fireworks was respected for once and the city remembered its Rei with a special initiative: 80 drones, flying over Praia do Gonzaga, drew various figures in the sky to remember the trajectory of the number 10.
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The funeral procession with the body of Pele passed in front of the mother’s house – Sport
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