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Huge crowds bid soccer star Pele farewell in Santos

2023-01-03T16:43:30Z

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was among 230,000 mourners to view Pele’s open casket in Santos, where some fans shed silent tears and others gave the Brazilian soccer star rousing cheers as they filed through the costal city’s stadium.

A 24-hour memorial service at the Vila Belmiro stadium for Pele, who died last week at the age of 82 after battling colon cancer for a year, ended on Tuesday morning and his casket was taken in a procession through the city for private burial.

It halted outside the home of his 100-year-old mother, where crowds lining the streets applauded. Pele’s sister watched in tears from a balcony.

“Pele is incomparable, as a soccer player and as a human being,” said newly sworn-in President Lula who arrived by helicopter at the stadium on Tuesday morning. He stood for about 30 minutes next to Pele’s casket, draped with a Brazilian flag, in the center of the soccer field.

People had formed long queues outside the stadium in Santos, the city where Pele lived for most of his life, and waited for up to three hours to pay their respects even overnight, according to Santos Football Club.

“Long live the king,” a giant banner read inside the stadium. Dubbed the ‘king of soccer,’ Pele played for Santos from 1956 to 1974, scoring more than 1,000 goals.

Lula comforted Pele’s family members and listened to a Catholic ceremony alongside First Lady Rosangela da Silva.

“The most fantastic thing is that Pele never held his nose in the air, he treated everyone the same,” Lula told Santos TV.

Celebrities and authorities also paid their respects. FIFA President Gianni Infantino was one of the first to attend the memorial on Monday and said he would ask football associations around the world to name a stadium after Pele, the only man to win the World Cup three times as a player.

Some soccer stars attended the wake, including former Brazil midfielder Ze Roberto, who helped place Pele’s coffin in the center of the field on Monday.

But only two of the 67 living Brazilian world champions attended the service – 1994 World Cup winner Mauro Silva, who works for the Sao Paulo state FA, and 1970 champion Clodoaldo, who works for Santos, prompting criticism from some commentators.

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