FIFA President Gianni Infantino has called on every nation to name a football stadium in honor of Brazilian icon Pele, who died last Thursday at the age of 82 after a battle with cancer.
Infantino made the suggestion while speaking to reporters at the Urbano Caldeira de Santos stadium, where the legendary footballer actually lies before his funeral on Tuesday, with thousands of mourners lining up to pay their respects.
More than 5,000 members of the media from around the world are believed to attend the public memorial, which is taking place inside the Santos football stadium where Pele had so many of his best moments.
The Brazilian legend was born in Tres Coracoes but moved to Santos in 1956 and spent most of his life in the Sao Paulo neighborhood.
Infantino was joined at the memorial by several dignitaries, including the South American country’s recently elected president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and vice president Geraldo Alckmin.
In Vila Belmiro, Santos, as Pelé’s funeral ceremony begins. Dignitaries begin to file past his coffin – Gianni Infantino bottom right pic.twitter.com/FXnTv5VO9a
—Olivier Brown (@oliverbrown_tel) January 2, 2023
“We are also going to ask all the countries in the world to name one of their football stadiums with the name of Pelé“, Infantino told the media in brief comments.
The suggestion will likely be an easy sell in Brazil, but it remains to be seen how other members of world football’s governing body will react to the FIFA president’s suggestion. In total, some 211 countries are full members of FIFA.
After his memorial, Pelé’s body will be carried through the streets of Santos to the Ecumenical Memorial Necropolis Cemetery where he will be buried in a private ceremony.
“Pelé leaves millions of Santos fans across our country. He was the creator of Brazilian football“, said a fan of the footballer’s impact on the country.
The public memorial, as well as Tuesday’s procession, is overseen by the Sao Paulo State Military Police, which has adopted a special code name to oversee its efforts: “Operation King Pele.”
The thousands of mourners in Santos, and millions more around the world, would agree that football’s most famous icon deserves nothing less.
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