SANTOS, Brazil ( Associated Press) — Pele was laid to rest Tuesday in the city he made for years the soccer capital of the world, marking the end of a funeral for a star whose death shocked millions inside and outside Brazil. Fans were in mourning. ,
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who has just taken office, paid tribute to Pelé at the Vila Belmiro stadium, where he played at home for most of his career.
Pele already lives in the city of Santos, where he grew up and became famous. A mass prayer was held at the stadium before the casket was taken by the fire engine to a nearby cemetery.
Upon the procession’s arrival at the cemetery, the musical band performed the official song of the Santos Club and a Catholic hymn. Shortly before, those present sang samba songs that Pele loved.
No famous active or retired Brazilian footballers attended the funeral.
“Where’s Ronaldo Nazario? Where’s Kaka? Where’s Neymar?” asked Claudianer Alves, 67, who works at a bakery near the stadium. “Do you think he will be remembered as Pele? These guys didn’t want to postpone their vacation. That’s the problem”.
Another absentee was Jair Bolsonaro, whose term as president ended on 31 December. The day before, he had left the capital, Brasilia, on a flight to Florida, having shied away from the formal duty of handing over the presidency to Lula.
Bolsonaro lives in a condominium complex on the outskirts of Orlando, where he has been seen interacting with some neighbors.
17-year-old Giovanna Sarmento waited in line for three hours to say goodbye to Pele’s body. The young woman arrived with her father, who was wearing a Brazilian team shirt with Pele’s name on it.
“I’m not a fan of Santos, neither is my father. But this player invented the Brazilian national team. He strengthened and raised Santos. How not to respect that? He is one of the greatest people in history and We should respect them,” he explained.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Pele was probably the most famous player in the world. He met with presidents and kings, and a civil war in Nigeria was put on hiatus so the combatants could watch him play out. Many Brazilians believe that he put their country on the world stage for the first time.
Several Pele No. 10 jerseys hung behind one of the goals and fluttered in the summer breeze. One section of the stand was filled with bouquets of flowers from attendees or sent by clubs and football figures – including Neymar and Ronaldo – from around the world. Through the loudspeakers, the song “U So Pele” (I am Pele), recorded by the Brazilian idol himself, was playing.
The attendees were mostly local, although some came from afar. Many were too young to see Pele play live. The atmosphere was relaxed and those leaving the field armed with Santos and Brazil shirts went to a nearby bar.
“I’ve never seen him play, but loving Pele is a tradition passed from father to son at Santos. I learned his story, I saw his goals and I understand that Santos is important because he is important ,” said Claudio Carranca, a 32-year-old salesman. “I know there are children of some Santos fans who support other teams, but it is only because they have never seen Pelé play. If they had seen it, they would have felt the gratitude that I feel now. feel.”
Among those in attendance was Manoel María, who was said to be Pelé’s best friend and who also played for the club.
“Even if I had all the money in the world, I would not be able to repay what this man did to me and my family. He was a great man and player, the best of all time,” he said. “His legacy will outlive us all, and you can see it here in this long line, with people of all ages.”
On his part, FIFA President Gianni Infantino told reporters that each country should rename a stadium after Pele.
Infantino said, “I am very emotional here, sad but also smiling because they have given us so many smiles.” “At FIFA we will pay tribute to King and ask everyone to observe a minute’s silence.”
One of the fans and friends attending the funeral chapel was Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes.
“It is a very sad moment, but now we are seeing the real importance of this legend to our country,” Mendes told reporters. “I have shirts signed by Pele in my office, as well as a photo signed by him when he played as a goalkeeper. There is a large collection of DVDs, photographs and related articles.
Pele had been fighting stomach cancer since 2021. The medical center where he was hospitalized reported that he died of multiple organ failure as a result of cancer.
During his illustrious career, Pelé led Brazil to World Cup victories in Sweden in 1958, Chile in 1962 and Mexico in 1970. He remains the team’s top scorer with 77 goals, a figure equaled by Neymar at the recent World Cup in Qatar.