SANTOS, Brazil (AP) — Fans lined up outside Vila Belmiro Stadium early Monday ahead of Pele’s funeral in his hometown of Santos.
The great Brazilian footballer died on Thursday after a battle with cancer. He was 82 years old.
Pele scored some of the best goals of his career at the 16,000-seat stadium outside Sao Paulo. His funeral is due to start at 10 a.m. local time, and burial will take place on Tuesday in a vertical cemetery just 600 meters away.
Fans began arriving at the stadium in the early hours of Monday to pay their last respects to Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known worldwide as Pelé.
One of them was Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes.
“It’s a very sad moment, but now we see the true meaning of this legendary player for our country,” Mendes told reporters. “My office has shirts signed by Pelé, a photo of him as a goalkeeper, also signed by him. DVDs, photos, a large collection of him.
Mendes also said that Pele was a humble man despite his worldwide fame and deserved all the respect.
Inside the Vila Belmiro, a large tent was set up to place Pelé’s coffin.
After Pelé’s funeral, his coffin will be brought to the streets of Santos ahead of his burial. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and other dignitaries are expected.
Pelé had been undergoing treatment for colon cancer since 2021. The medical center where he was hospitalized said he died of multiple organ failure as a result of the cancer.
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