SANTOS, BRAZIL — It’s been 45 years since Pele played his last game, but it’s hard to imagine modern football without him: Brazil.

17-year-old Geovana Salmento waited in line for three hours to see his body resting at the stadium where he played most of his career. She came with her father, who wore a Brazilian shirt with Pele’s name on it.

“I’m not a Santos fan, nor is my father. But this guy invented the Brazilian national team. He made Santos stronger and bigger. He’s the greatest man ever.” and we had to honor him,” she said.

Pele will be buried on Tuesday in the city where he grew up, became famous and helped become the global capital of football. , a Catholic Mass is celebrated at the Vila Belmiro stadium.

Brazil’s newly elected president, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, was sworn in for a third term on Sunday with a comeback victory.

The football great died Thursday at the age of 82 after a battle with cancer, the only player to win three World Cups.

Thousands of mourners, including high school students and Supreme Court justices, lined past Pele’s corpse at the 100-year-old stadium on Monday. He made his hometown team his one of the best in Brazil. Brazil and Santos FC Football Pelé’s coffin, covered in his club’s flag, was placed in the midfield area of ​​the Vila his Vermiro.

The celebrated 16,000-seat stadium was surrounded by mourning fans and the interior was covered with Pele-themed decorations. Fans coming out of the stadium said they had been waiting in line for three hours in the heat.

Engineer Caio Zalke, 35, stood in line wearing a Brazilian shirt. “Pele is the most important Brazilian of all time. He made football important for Brazil, he made Brazil important for the world,” he said.

In the 1960s and 70s, Pele was probably the most famous athlete in the world. He met presidents and queens, and the civil war was put on hold in Nigeria to see him play. Many Brazilians believe he put his country on the world stage for the first time.

A row of Pelé’s number 10 shirts lay behind one of the goals and fluttered in the city’s summer breeze. The speaker “Eu sou Pelé” (“I am Pele”) was recorded by the Brazilian himself.

Most of them were locals, although some came from far away. Many of the mourners were too young to see Pele play.The mood was lightened as people in Santos FC and Brazil uniforms walked out of the stadium into local bars.

Salesman Claudio Carranza, 32, said: “I never saw him play, but loving Pele is a tradition passed down from father to son at Santos. I learned his history and his goals. I realized how important Santos FC is because he is important.I know that some Santos fans have kids who support other teams. But that’s because they never saw Pele in action, and if they did, they’d feel this gratitude I feel right now.

Among those present at the stadium was Pele’s best friend Manoel Maria, a former Santos player.

“If I had all the wealth in the world, I would never be able to repay what this man did for me and my family. He was a man. The greatest of all time. His legacy will outlive all of us. And you can see it in the long lines of people of all ages here.”

FIFA president Gianni Infantino told journalists that every country should name a stadium after Pele.

“I’m here with a lot of emotion and sorrow, but he gave us so many smiles that I also have a smile on my face,” Infantino said. “At FIFA, we pay tribute to The King and ask the world for a minute’s silence.”

Another fan and friend was Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendez.

“It’s a very sad moment, but we now know that this legendary player means real things to our country,” Mendes said at a press conference. I have a picture of him as a keeper, and a shirt signed by him.I have a huge collection of DVDs, pictures, and him.”

Pele had been undergoing treatment for colon cancer since 2021. The medical center where Pele was hospitalized said she died of multiple organ failure due to cancer.

Pele led Brazil to World Cup titles in 1958, 1962 and 1970 and remains one of the team’s all-time top scorers with 77 goals. Neymar equaled Pele’s record at this year’s World Cup in Qatar.

AP Soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


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