Brazilians have begun paying their final respects to soccer great Pele with a 24-hour public wake that began on Monday at the Urbano Caldeira stadium, home of his former soccer club Santos.
The wake is open to the public and mourners began pouring into the stadium on Monday morning.
On Tuesday, a funeral procession will carry Pele’s coffin through the streets of the city of Santos, including passing the street where Pele’s 100-year-old mother, Celeste Arantes, lives.
The procession will continue to Pele’s final resting place, the Memorial Necropole Acumenica Cemetery, where a private funeral will be held for family members.
Fireworks greeted the vehicle carrying Pele’s casket as it left the Albert Einstein hospital in Sao Paulo, where the three-time World Cup winner died on Thursday from multiple organ failure due to progressing colon cancer.
The hearse was under heavy police protection as it headed towards the stadium, where his casket would be placed in the middle of the pitch.
Fans had started to line the streets since Monday morning, many carrying flags or banners with messages ‘oh re’ (“king”). “Pele, you are eternal,” read one on the side of the highway.
Inside Santos’ 16,000-seat stadium, several large banners were placed throughout the stands, one of which read “The King Live”.
For more than 60 years the name Pele has been synonymous with football. He played in four World Cups and is the only player in history to win three World Cups, but his legacy extends far beyond his trophy hall and remarkable goal-scoring record.
Pele famously said, “I was born to play football, just as Beethoven was born to write music and Michelangelo was born to paint.”
Pelé, born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, is widely regarded as one of the greatest sportsmen in history and his death was followed by three days of national mourning in Brazil.
Sports stars, politicians and musicians around the world have paid tribute to a man who transcended his sport and became a global icon.