In Vila Belmiro, his beloved home stadium, the fans say goodbye to the “king of football”.

Santos: The Brazilian coastal city of Santos, which sporting giant Pele made the epitome of footballing brilliance during a glittering club career, has begun to bid farewell to its hero with a 24-hour vigil.

Mourners lined up to see Pele’s body in an open coffin in the middle of the field at Vila Belmiro Stadium, home of Santos Football Club. Pele died Friday (AEDT) at the age of 82 after battling colon cancer.

“Pele leaves behind millions of Santos fans across our country. He was the creator of Brazilian football,” said Antonio da Paz, a fan outside the stadium for the memorial service, which began at 10 a.m. Monday (midnight Tuesday AEDT).

People pay their last respects to the late Brazilian soccer star Pelé, who is stateside at the Vila Belmiro stadium in Santos, Brazil.

People pay their last respects to the late Brazilian soccer star Pelé, who is stateside at the Vila Belmiro stadium in Santos, Brazil.Credit:AP

FIFA President Gianni Infantino was among the first to arrive at the service and said he will ask every country to name a stadium after Pele, the only man to have won the World Cup three times as a player.

“Pele is eternal,” Infantino said. “FIFA will certainly honor the ‘King’ as he deserves. We have asked all the world’s football governing bodies to observe a minute’s silence before every game and will also ask them, 211 countries, to name a stadium after Pele. Future generations must know and remember who Pelé was.”

Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento in the small country town of Tres Coracoes in 1940, Pele moved to Santos in 1956 and lived there for most of his life.

His body arrived in the city of about 430,000 from the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo amid fireworks in the early hours of Monday morning.

Former Brazil midfielder Ze Roberto and Pele’s son Edinho helped place his coffin on the field. Wreaths of flowers were sent by the likes of Neymar, Vinicius Junior and Spanish club Real Madrid.

https://www.smh.com.au/world/south-america/at-pele-s-beloved-home-ground-fans-bid-farewell-to-king-of-soccer-20230103-p5ca2u.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_world In Vila Belmiro, his beloved home stadium, the fans say goodbye to the “king of football”.

Callan Tansill

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