SANTOS, BRAZIL (AP) — The Brazilian coastal city of Santos, which sports giant Pelé made synonymous with soccer brilliance during a glittering club career, began saying goodbye to its hero Monday with a 24-hour wake.
Mourners lined up to view Pelé’s body in an open coffin in midfield at the Vila Belmiro stadium, home of Santos Football Club. Pelé died on Thursday at the age of 82 after battling colon cancer.
“Pele leaves millions of Santos fans throughout 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.
President Gianni Infantino was one of the first to arrive for the service, saying he would ask each country to name a stadium after Pelé, the only man to win the World Cup three times as a player.
“Pele is eternal,” Infantino told reporters. “FIFA will certainly honor the ‘king’ as he deserves. We have asked all the football associations in the world to observe a minute of silence before each game and we will also ask 211 countries to name a stadium after Pelé. Future generations must know and remember who Pele was.”
Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pele’s given name, was born in 1940 in the small rural town of Tres Coracoes, but moved to Santos in 1956 and lived there for most of his life.
In the early hours of Monday, his body arrived under fireworks in the city of some 430,000 inhabitants from the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo.
Former Brazilian midfielder Ze Roberto and Pele’s son Edinho helped place his coffin on the pitch, television footage showed. Floral wreaths were sent by players like Neymar, Vinicius Junior and Real Madrid.