Brazil bids farewell to ‘king of soccer’ Pele with 24-hour wake

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The Brazilian coastal city of Santos, which sporting giant Pele turned into a byword for soccer brilliance during a glittering club career, started bidding goodbye to its hero on Monday with a 24-hour wake.

Mourners lined up to see Pele’s body in an open casket in the center of the field at the Vila Belmiro stadium, home of the Santos Football Club. Pele died on Thursday at 82 after battling colon cancer.

“Pele leaves millions of Santos fans across our country. He was the creator of Brazilian soccer,” said Antonio da Paz, a fan outside the stadium for the memorial that began at 10 a.m. (1300 GMT).

Pele is eternal,” Infantino told reporters. “FIFA will certainly honor the ‘king’ as he deserves. We have asked all football associations in the world to pay a minute of silence before every game and will also ask them, 211 countries, to name a stadium after Pele. Future generations must know and remember who Pele was.”

In the early hours Monday, his body arrived under fireworks in the city of about 430,000 people from Sao Paulo’s Albert Einstein Hospital.

Former Brazil midfielder Ze Roberto and Pele’s son Edinho helped placing his coffin in the field, TV footage showed. Floral wreaths were sent by the likes of Neymar, Vinicius Junior and Real Madrid.

On Tuesday, a procession carrying Pele’s coffin will pass through the streets of Santos, ending at the Ecumenical Memorial Necropolis cemetery, where he will be buried in a private ceremony.

Several government officials are expected to attend the memorial, including newly sworn-in Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Vice President Geraldo Alckmin, a longtime Santos supporter.

Sao Paulo state military police said in a statement they had prepared a special operation called the “King Pele Operation” to ensure public order.

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