Brazilians bid farewell to the legendary Pelé on Monday, four days after his death at the age of 82, during a 24-hour public vigil at the stadium in the city of Santos, where the star football has forged much of its legend.
The coffin of the only football player to have won three World Cups (1958, 1962, 1970) will rest in the center of the Vila Belmiro pitch which will open its doors at 10 a.m. (1300 GMT), according to FC Santos, his lifelong club. .
Three giant banners were visible in the stands of the 16,000-seat stadium on Sunday: one showing Pelé from behind with the “10” jersey that the ex-striker immortalized, while the other two read “Long live the king” and “Pelé 82 years old”.
Entrance to the stadium will be authorized “without interruption” until Tuesday at 10 a.m. local time, then a procession will travel through the streets of Santos, a city located 75 kilometers south-east of Sao Paulo, before the burial, reserved for the family.
The procession will notably pass in front of the house of the centenary mother of ex-footballer Dona Celeste, who “does not know” that her son is dead, according to Maria Lucia do Nascimento, one sisters of the deceased. “She is in her world,” she assured ESPN on Friday.
The death of the genius player, who scored 1,283 goals in his 21-year career, most with his club Santos, shocked beyond Brazil and sparked a tsunami of condolences.
But his death, from colon cancer detected in September 2021, has not yet provoked a massive demonstration in the country: the crowds at the Sao Paulo hospital where he died surrounded of his family was not very important, just like at the Vila Belmiro stadium in the days following his death.
The possible reasons? The end-of-year holidays when many Brazilians go to the seaside resorts, the time that has passed (almost half a century) since “O Rei” retired and the antipathy he arouses in some for his silence on the military dictatorship (1964-1985) and racism.
Luiz Santos, a 40-year-old schoolteacher, however, is confident that thousands of people will bid Santos farewell on Monday and Tuesday to 'Brazil's biggest idol', although during his lifetime he aroused less popular fervor than others. Brazilian icons like F1 driver Ayrton Senna.
“I'm sure a lot of people will come to the wake, not just old people who saw him play, but also young people says Silvio Neves Souza, a 54-year-old electrician on vacation in Santos.
Bouquets of flowers adorned a bust and a statue of Pelé erected outside the Vila Belmiro, while banners bearing his likeness were unfurled in another part of the city where there is also a monument to his memory. “I enchanted the world with the ball at my feet,” one read.
In the rest of the country, tributes to his memory were also visible such as on one of the walls of the headquarters of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) in Rio de Janeiro, where there is a giant image of the old number “10”. with the “Seleçao” jersey and the word “eternal”.
A minute of silence in his homage was also observed during the inauguration of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in Brasilia.
Security has been tightened at Congonhas airport in Sao Paulo, in anticipation of the arrival of sportsmen, politicians and other personalities planning to attend the funeral wake, according to the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known as Pelé, spent a month in Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo until his death on December 29 from heart failure. kidney and heart disease, bronchopneumonia and colon adenocarcinoma, according to the death certificate published by several local media.
“We were ns with him” on December 21, assured his sister Maria Lucia. “He was very calm, we talked a little, but I already felt that he felt it, he already knew that he was going to leave”, she testified.