In Rio de Janeiro
In Rio de Janeiro
More than 150,000 people went Monday and Tuesday to the Vila Belmiro stadium, in Santos, a port city on the coast of São Paulo, where Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé, or simply "the King", made his debut in 1956. He played for Santos FC until 1974, bringing the club two Copa Libertadores and two Intercontinental Cups, as well as global fame.
Under a blazing sun, and all night long, the fans sometimes queued for miles and waited several hours to pay their last respects to the triple world champion.
"I've never seen him play, but in Santos, loving Pelé is a tradition passed down from father to son
," confided Claudio Carrança, a 32-year-old salesman.
“He left his art, which is the most important”
During the 1960s and 1970s, Pelé was one of the world's best-known athletes, and he remains for many the greatest footballer of all time.
He shook hands with many presidents, greeted members of royalty, and his visit to Nigeria in 1969, in the midst of civil war, would have caused a 48-hour ceasefire, the time that the football titan and his team face the Nigerian selection.
Read alsoBrazil: Lula on Tuesday in Santos to meditate in front of Pelé's coffin
Serginho Chulapa, 69, another football star, also played for Santos.
Along with other ex-club players, he came to say goodbye.
“He fulfilled his mission here on earth, that's what matters.
He carried the name of Brazil, the name of Santos all over the world
,” he told a few journalists as he left the stadium.
“His legacy, everyone knows it.
He left his art, which is the most important.
Everything he did was absurd, as a person and as a player
Goals, records, success: Pelé, a life of football in pictures
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But far beyond football and sporting excellence, Pelé is for Brazil a symbol of its diversity and of a national unity which seems to have disappeared to give way to extreme polarization.
A few hundred kilometers from Santos, Paulo Vinicius, 38, and his nephew Bernardo, 9, make a few passes on Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro.
“For me, Pelé represents what Brazil has best: its people, its working class, estimates Vinicius, professor of sports education.
He is an icon… What word is more famous than Pelé?
Read alsoPhilippe Delerm: "Pelé, a magician with a child's heart"
Freshly elected President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva paid tribute to the eternal number 10 on Tuesday morning, accompanied by his vice-president, Geraldo Alckmin.
The president of the International Football Federation, Gianni Infantino, also made the trip, and assured that Fifa would ask
“all the countries of the world”
to baptize at least one of their stadiums with the name of Pelé.
Other faces, much expected, like that of Neymar, were absent.
Pelé had been suffering from colon cancer since 2021. He died on Thursday December 29 at the age of 82 following complications.
The Memorial of the Ecumenical Necropolis, the highest cemetery in the world
Once the vigil was over, a long funeral procession carried the "King", draped in the colors of Brazil and Santos FC, through the streets of the city, stopping in particular in front of the house of his mother, Celeste Arantes do Nascimento. , which celebrated its 100th anniversary last November.
Families, young and old were gathered throughout the procession to greet the fire truck where the coffin lay.
Last stop of this final journey: the Memorial of the Ecumenical Necropolis.
This cemetery, the highest in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records, Pelé had chosen it almost twenty years ago, precisely because it did not look like a cemetery, and for the
"spiritual peace and tranquility"
which emanated from it.
In tribute to his father, who wore number 9 during his football career, Pelé chose a seat on the 9th floor, enjoying a view of the stadium of his career, the Vila Belmiro.