Brazil gets ready to bury Pelé in the soccer mecca

Brazil gets ready to bury Pelé in the soccer mecca

Forty-five years after Pele played his last game, it’s hard to imagine modern football, or Brazil, without him.

Geovana Sarmento, 17, waited three hours in a row to see his body in the funeral chapel set up in the stadium where she played most of her career. She was accompanied by her father, who was wearing a T-shirt with Pele’s name on it.

“I am not a Santos fan, nor is my father. But this player invented the Brazilian national team. He strengthened and magnified the Saints. How not to respect it? He is one of the greatest people in history and we must honor him,” she explained.

Pelé will be buried Tuesday in the city where he grew up, became famous and helped make it the soccer capital of the world. A Catholic mass will be held at the Vila Belmiro stadium before his coffin is carried through the streets of Santos to a nearby cemetery.

I know that Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who assumed the presidency of the country for the third time on Sunday, will arrive on the field shortly before the departure of the coffin.

The Brazilian star, the only one to have been crowned in three World Cups, died on Thursday, after a battle against cancer. He was 82 years old.

Thousands of mourners, from high school students to Supreme Court judges, paid tribute to Pele on Monday at the 100-year-old stadium that witnessed him turn his hometown team into one of the best in the country. The coffin, draped in the Brazilian and Santos flags, was located near the Vila Belmiro midfield.

The historic stadium, with a capacity for 16,000 spectators, was surrounded by fans in mourning and decorated inside in homage to the star. Fans leaving the stadium told of waiting in line for three hours under a scorching sun.

Caio Zalke, a 35-year-old engineer, waited in line wearing a Verdeamarela shirt. “Pelé is the most important Brazilian in history. He made football important in Brazil and made Brazil important to the world”, he commented.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Pelé was perhaps the most famous sportsman in the world. He met with presidents and monarchs, and a civil war in Nigeria was put on hiatus so combatants could watch him play. Many Brazilians consider that he first placed their country on the world stage.

Numerous Pelé number 10 jerseys were hung behind one of the goals and fluttered in the summer wind. A section of the stands was filled with flower bouquets from attendees or sent by clubs and soccer figures — including Neymar and Ronaldo — from around the world. Through the loudspeakers, the song “Eu sou Pelé” (I am Pelé) was playing, recorded by the Brazilian idol himself.

The attendees were mostly from the city, although some traveled from afar. Many were too young to have seen Pelé play live. The atmosphere was relaxed and those who left the field, equipped with Santos and Brazil shirts, went to nearby bars.

“I never saw him play, but loving Pelé is a tradition that is passed down from father to son in Santos. I learned his story from him, I saw his goals and I understand that Santos is important because he is important, ”said Claudio Carrança, a 32-year-old salesman. “I know that some Santos fans have children who support other teams, but it’s only because they never saw Pelé in action. If they had seen it, they would feel this gratitude that I feel now.”

Among those present was Manoel María, described as Pelé’s best friend and who also played for the club.

“If I had all the wealth in the world, I still couldn’t pay for what this man did for me and my family. He was a great man and player, the best of all time,” he stated. “His legacy from him will outlast all of us, and you can see that in this long line here, with people of all ages.”

For his part, FIFA president Gianni Infantino told reporters that each country should rename a stadium after Pelé.

“I am here very emotional, sad but also smiling because he gave us many smiles,” said Infantino. “At FIFA we will pay tribute to the King and ask that everyone observe a minute of silence.”

Another of the fans and friends who attended the funeral chapel was Gilmar Mendes, a Supreme Court judge.

“It is a very sad moment, but we are now seeing the real significance of this legendary player for our country,” Mendes told reporters. “In my office there are shirts signed by Pelé, as well as a photo signed by him from when he played as a goalkeeper. There are DVDs, photos and a large collection of articles related to him”.

Pelé had been fighting colon cancer since 2021. The medical center where he was hospitalized reported that he died of multiple organ failure as a result of the cancer.

Throughout his outstanding career, Pelé led Brazil to the victory of the World Cups in Sweden 1958, Chile 1962 and Mexico 1970. He continues to be the team’s top scorer with 77 goals, a figure equaled by Neymar in the recent World Cup in Qatar.

Melissa Galbraith
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.