Brazilians travel to Santos to honor Pele, the "legend of a thousand goals"

Brazilians travel to Santos to honor Pele, the "legend of a thousand goals"

January 2, 2023, 2:52 PM

January 2, 2023, 2:52 PM

Pedro and his wife Clady traveled from the state of Paraná. Carlos and his son Bernardo did it from Rio de Janeiro. And Fernandes from Sao Paulo. Everyone wanted to pay tribute to the legendary Pelé, veiled this Monday at the stadium of ‘his’ Santos.

“There are no words to describe it, it meant everything to football,” medical engineering technician Pedro Stolber, 71, told AFP before entering the Vila Belmiro stadium, home of Santos, where ‘O Rei’ stood out between 1956 and 1974.

The sports venue, with capacity for 16,000 people, is the scene of the wake that began this Monday and will last 24 hours. On Tuesday, he will be buried in a mausoleum in the port city, near Sao Paulo, in a private ceremony.

With the black shirt of the ‘Peixe’, Stolber waited under a hot sun in a long line that would finally lead him to the black coffin, in the center of the field, where rested what many consider the best footballer in history.

At his side was his wife Clady, 67. Both traveled on Friday from their home in Paraná, in southern Brazil, after learning of the death the day before of the only player to win three World Cups (1958, 1962, 1970).

“It’s exciting to see people paying tribute to him. He’s the king, isn’t he?” said Clady, who shielded her eyes with sunglasses.

Most of the fans wore clothing from the albinegro team, which crack made worldwide famous for scoring 1,091 goals in 1,116 games and winning six of his eight leagues, two of his three Copa Libertadores and his two Intercontinentals in the 1960s.

“I couldn’t see him play, but that myth, that legend of the thousand goals is great for me,” said Cristian Abreu, a 16-year-old teenager. Resident of Santos, he arrived at the place at half past six in the morning and was one of the first to enter the wake.

Brazilians travel to Santos to honor Pele, the "legend of a thousand goals"

The Vila Belmiro stands were waiting for him, decorated with flags in memory of the star, who died at the age of 82. Some, small, carried the number ’10’ that eternalized; in others, larger, messages such as “Long live the king” or “Eternal Pelé” were read.

“Brazil lost a soccer icon, he was put on the map through Pelé. He carried the name of Santos for the whole world, he must be revered,” assured the driver Fernandes José de Oliveira, 56, who traveled alone from Sao Paulo on Monday morning.

Inside the stadium, where various personalities attended, including FIFA president Gianni Infantino, the attendees were with a black walkway surrounded by metal fences and they could hear the song “My legacy”, sung by the striker.

“I am Pelé thanks to you / I am Pelé, my legacy is for you”, intones ‘O Rei’.

Brazilians travel to Santos to honor Pele, the "legend of a thousand goals"

Although the majority, the fans of the albinegro eleven did not monopolize the attendance: sympathizers of other Brazilian teams made common cause.

“My childhood was marked by what Pelé did for Brazil”, said Carlos Mota, a 59-year-old bank official, his torso covered with a Fluminense de Rio de Janeiro jersey.

The man traveled from the city of Rio in the company of his 12-year-old son Bernardo, who was wearing a Barcelona jacket from Spain.

“Over time, young people have new information and it’s normal for things to be forgotten a bit. But I always told my son that there are three things that are not discussed: that the ball is round, the grass is green and Pelé, the larger”Held.

Near him were fans of Sao Paulo and Corinthians, as well as people wearing the ‘Seleçao’ shirt. On the walls of the neighborhood hung flags in memory of the former attacker, that in a 21-year career he only defended Santos, Brazil and the New York Cosmos.

“He conquered the world, he was very charismatic”, said nurse Kianny Sanches, 29, as she left the wake after three hours of waiting in line.

The woman was carrying some white flowers that she hoped to leave next to the bust and statue of Pelé in an exterior corridor of the stadium.

“It was exciting, sad, but there is also a feeling of gratitude for everything he did for Brazil, for Brazilian football. We are recognized throughout the world thanks to Pele.”

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