SANTOS, BRAZIL: The Brazilian coastal city of Santos, which sporting giant Pele turned into a by-word for soccer brilliance during a glittering club career, started bidding goodbye to its hero on Monday with a 24-hour wake.
Mourners lined up to see Pele’s body in an open casket in the center of the field at the Vila Belmiro stadium, home of the Santos Football Club. Pele died on Thursday at the age of 82 after battling with colon cancer.
“Pele leaves millions of Santos fans across our country. He was the creator of Brazilian soccer,” said Antonio da Paz, a fan outside the stadium for the memorial that began at 10 a.m.
President Gianni Infantino was among the first to arrive for the service and said he would ask every country to name a stadium after Pele, the only man to win the World Cup three times as a player.
“Pele is eternal,” Infantino told reporters. “FIFA will certainly honor the ‘king’ as he deserves. We have asked all football associations in the world to pay a minute of silence before every game and will also ask them, 211 countries, to name a stadium after Pele. Future generations must know and remember who Pele was.”
Edson Arantes do Nascimento — Pele’s given name — was born in 1940 in the small country town of Tres Coracoes, but moved to Santos in 1956 and lived there for most of his life.
In the early hours Monday, his body arrived under fireworks in the city of about 430,000 people from Sao Paulo’s Albert Einstein Hospital.
Former Brazil midfielder Ze Roberto and Pele’s son Edinho helped placing his coffin in the field, TV footage showed. Floral wreaths were sent by the likes of Neymar, Vinicius Junior and Real Madrid.