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RIP LEGEND: Brazil’s New President Pays Tribute To Pele

Brazil’s new president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has joined tens of thousands of mourners paying tribute to Pelé in the coastal city of Santos before the former footballer’s burial there on Tuesday afternoon.

Pelé, who died last week age 82, scored most of his 1,283 goals for Santos football club and it is there that he will be laid to rest after a funeral cortege from the stadium, Vila Belmiro, where his 24-hour wake has been held.

More than 230,000 mourners from across Brazil have filed past Pelé’s coffin since the wake began at 10am on Monday, voicing adoration and regret over the passing of a sporting legend who won three World Cups and became the country’s most famous international calling-card.

A giant banner draped over one of the stands captured their emotions with the words “Viva o Rei” (“Long live the King”).

Lula joined mourners on the pitch of the 16,000-capacity ground on Tuesday morning after flying into Santos from the capital, Brasília, where he was sworn in for a historic third term as president on Sunday afternoon.

The football-loving leftist, who grew up watching Pelé play, comforted the footballer’s relatives and friends under a white marquee where his coffin had been draped with the yellow and green flag of Brazil and Santos’s white flag.

“Farewell to the king. Rest in peace, Pelé,” Lula wrote on Twitter alongside a photograph showing him paying his final respects.

Lula did not address the hundreds of journalists who have flocked to the stadium to witness Pelé’s wake. But a message on a floral tribute sent by Lula and the first lady, Rosângela Lula da Silva, the previous day honoured “the great Brazilian, our king Pelé”.

In the early hours of Tuesday, the queue to enter the Vila Belmiro stretched for more than 2km with tearful mourners waiting up to three hours to catch a glimpse of their idol.

After the wake ended at 10am on Tuesday, Pelé’s body was placed on a red fire engine by police guards and driven south towards the seafront. From there the cortege moved east along the coast, towards the home of his 100-year-old mother, Celeste Arantes, after which it will be taken to a nearby cemetery for a private burial.

Brazilian television channels suspended their normal programming to broadcast the procession, as happened in Argentina after the death of its football legend Diego Maradona in 2020. Thousands of locals of all ages poured on to the streets of Santos to shout their hero’s name as his coffin passed by.

SOURCE: The Guardian

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