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There are no words to describe it, it meant everything to football“said the medical engineering technician Pedro Stolber, 71, 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 for 24 hours. On Tuesday, he will be buried in a mausoleum in the port city, near Sao Paulo, in a private ceremony.

Wearing the ‘Peixe’ black shirt, 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 lay 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 is the king, isn’t he?“said Clady, who shielded her eyes with sunglasses.

– Black and white crowd –

Most of the fans wore clothing from the albinegro team, which the star made world famous by 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 a thousand goals is great for me“said Cristian Abreu, a 16-year-old teenager. Resident of Santos, he arrived at the place at 6:30 in the morning and was one of the first to enter the wake.

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, had the number ’10’ that he immortalized; in others, larger, messages such as “Long live the king” either “eternal peel“.

– “Brazil on the map”

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

Inside the stadium, attended by various personalities, including FIFA president Gianni Infantino, the attendees found a black catwalk surrounded by metal fences and could hear the song “My legacy”, sung by the goalscorer.

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

– “Charismatic” –

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, with his torso covered in 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 is 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 green grass and Pelé, the biggest“, Held.

Near him were fans of Sao Paulo and Corinthians, as well as people wearing the ‘Canarinha’ shirt. On the walls of the neighborhood hung flags in memory of the former attacker, who in his 21-year career 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 Pelé“.

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