President Lula meditates in front of Pelé's coffin

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gathered in Santos (southeast) on Tuesday morning in front of Pelé's coffin on display in the stadium of his first exploits, where tens of thousands of people have flocked since the day before.

President Lula meditates in front of Pelé's coffin

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gathered in Santos (southeast) on Tuesday morning in front of Pelé's coffin on display in the stadium of his first exploits, where tens of thousands of people have flocked since the day before.

• Read also: Brazilians pay their last respects to “King” Pelé

• Read also: President Lula pledges to "rebuild the country" with the Brazilians

Arriving near the stadium by helicopter, Lula immediately offered his condolences to Pelé's widow when he arrived under the large awning where the coffin is displayed.

The head of state then attended a brief religious ceremony in front of the remains of Pelé before the departure of a funeral procession in the streets of Santos, a major port in the state of Sao Paulo, then the burial.

According to AFP journalists present on the spot, the parade of fans continued uninterruptedly all day Monday, then all night. According to TV Globo, some 150,000 people came to pay their last respects to the triple world champion.

“There are many, many people. It's magnificent, he deserves it," Katia Cruz, 58, retired and Santos FC fan, who stayed at the stadium until 1:30 a.m., told AFP. But her husband, “inconsolable”, preferred to stay at home.

After mostly waiting in long queues, Pele fans from all over Brazil have been slowly and quietly making their way to the big canopy since Monday morning.

At the end of this funeral wake, which lasted 24 hours, the funeral procession must cross from 10:00 a.m. (13:00 GMT) Santos and will pass in particular in front of the house of Pelé's mother, Celeste Arantes. Aged 100 but suffering from cognitive disorders, she is unaware of the death of her son.

The remains of Pelé will then be taken to his final resting place, a mausoleum specially erected in a cemetery, for a Catholic rite ceremony in strict family intimacy.

On Monday, thousands of fans and football dignitaries, including FIFA President Gianni Infantino, gathered in front of the black coffin of Pelé installed in the center of the stadium of FC Santos, the club where he played from 1956 to 1974. “Pelé is eternal. He is a global football icon,” Infantino said on Monday, adding that the football governing body would ask all member countries to name a stadium after Pelé.

Antonio Carlos Pereira da Silva, a 36-year-old artist, said he arrived at midnight to be among the first to pass the open coffin covered in a tulle veil where the man many consider the greatest footballer in the world rests. history, the only one to have won the World Cup three times in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

"If I said I didn't cry when he died, I would be lying," he told AFP. “Pelé taught us so many things. Not only in Brazil, but all over the world”.

Tributes have poured in from around the world since his death, with football's biggest names, current and former, hailing his genius for the 'beautiful game'.

Pele's third wife, Marcia Cibela Aoki, dressed in black and in tears, ran her hand over the head of the footballer she married in 2016. Three of Pele's six surviving children were in attendance.

She also placed a rosary in her coffin draped with the flags of FC Santos and Brazil.

Relatives paid a moving tribute to him, holding hands around his coffin in prayer.

Dozens of wreaths, sent by football personalities like Paris star SG Neymar or foreign clubs like Real Madrid, were placed around the coffin.

He "has inspired all generations, he has always been a reference", said the father of Neymar, the current number 10 of the Seleçao retained in Paris who equalized the number of goals of Pelé in the national team (77) during the recent World Cup in Qatar.

In the 16,000-seat stadium, three giant banners placed in the stands show Pelé from the back with his famous number 10 flocked jersey, and two others with the inscription "Long live the king" and "Pelé 82 years old".

Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known as Pelé, spent a month in Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo until his death on Thursday at age 82 from kidney and heart failure, bronchopneumonia and adenocarcinoma of the colon, according to the death certificate published by local media.

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