Brazilian football legend Pelé has been buried in the port city where he began his career nearly seven decades ago, with the country’s president flying in to grieve the “irreparable loss”.
Pelé, who passed away last week at the age of 82, scored the majority of his 1,283 goals for Santos football club. He was laid to rest on Tuesday afternoon, following an emotional three-hour parade, at a cemetery near the team’s Vila Belmiro stadium.
“This is such a difficult moment … but we feel great honour and pride,” said Pelé’s son, Edinho. “Now, he will rest.”
Pelé’s eight-mile burial procession through Santos, which gathered tens of thousands of mourning citizens, followed a 24-hour public wake at the 1950s stadium where he established his name as a teenager.
After the wake began at 10 a.m. on Monday, more than 230,000 mourners from across Brazil poured past Pelé’s coffin, expressing their respect and sorrow for the departure of a sporting icon who won three World Cups and became the country’s most renowned international ambassador.
A massive banner draped over one of the stands said “Viva o Rei” to evoke emotion (“Long live the king”).
Tuesday morning, Lula joined mourners on the pitch of the 16,000-seat stadium after flying in from Braslia, where he was sworn in for a historic third term as president on Sunday afternoon.
“Pelé is so special,” Lula said. “You can’t compare him to anyone because there is nobody comparable when it comes to being a football player or a human.”
“He’s a player who, from a very young age, enjoyed such extraordinary exposure … but was never snooty. He was always a humble citizen who treated others as equals.”
“He never let himself become carried away with his brilliance or with the glory. Even in his most glorious moments, like when he met the queen of England, he acted as he would when meeting a normal person on the street.”