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Tributes Pour In as Brazil Readies for Pelé’s Funeral

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SANTOS, Brazil — As Brazil prepared for Pelé’s funeral, condolences and reminiscences for probably the most famous soccer player in history poured in from around the globe.

Pelé’s body will lie at midfield on the Estádio Urbano Caldeira, known popularly as Vila Belmiro, in Santos, Brazil, for twenty-four hours, from Monday morning to Tuesday morning, to permit what is predicted to be a throng of mourners to pass by. The stadium, within the state of São Paulo, is home to Santos F.C., the club where Pelé spent nearly his entire profession.

The body will then be taken through the streets of Santos to the Ecumenical Necropolis Memorial for a personal burial.

On Friday morning, fans gathered at soccer’s fundamental landmarks in Santos, a port city of about 430,000.

Across the road from the stadium, Eva de Souza Nunes, 84, hung an oversized black-and-white flag bearing the club’s crest from her balcony.

“I’m in mourning today,” said de Souza Nunes, a retired nurse. “And it’s not only me. Brazil is in mourning; the entire world is in mourning.”

Across town, fans streamed to a bronze statue depicting Pelé’s famous “air punch” goal celebration, laying flowers and taking selfies. Rafael Barbosa, a 32-year-old bar owner, and his daughter Livia, 10, drew near the statue for an image, lifting their fists and striking the famous pose.

“Pelé is our king,” said Barbosa, who had traveled greater than 300 miles from town of Paraguaçu Paulista to pay his respects. “He’s history. He lives on in our memories, within the memories of our grandparents.”

Vilma Mattos de Lima, a 69-year-old special education teacher, wore a white jersey that Pelé had signed, and laid a hand on the statue with reverence.

“I used to be 10 years old after I saw him play for the primary time,” she said. “And I used to be enchanted from that moment. Losing him is heartbreaking.”

As befits a player who transcended his sport to turn into an iconic figure for his nation, and who transcended his nation to turn into an emblem for soccer worldwide, praise and memories of Pelé have poured in across social media since his death on Thursday.

“I had the privilege that the younger Brazilians didn’t have: I saw Pelé play live at Pacaembu and Morumbi,” Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s incoming president, said, referring to 2 stadiums in São Paulo. “Not merely play. I saw Pelé presenting a master class. When he got the ball, he all the time did something special, often ending in a goal. I confess I had a whole lot of anger issues regarding Pelé, because he all the time slaughtered my Corinthians. But initially, I admired him. And the anger soon gave technique to passion of watching him play with the ten jersey of the Brazilian national team.”

“Pelé modified every little thing,” said Neymar, the Brazilian superstar. “He turned football into art, into entertainment, he gave a voice to the poor, to Black people and, above all, he gave visibility to Brazil. Football and Brazil raised their status, because of the king. He’s gone, but his magic will remain. Pelé is everlasting.”

“He will likely be immortalized in every magnificent goal, in every moment of genius, but mainly in each considered one of us who were inspired by him and his generation,” said Cafu, the previous Brazilian great.

“By your feet we were and can proceed to be blessed by your art,” said Marta, among the finest women’s players ever. “I like you, king.”

“Michael Jordan was the Pelé of basketball,” said Antonio Tabet, a Brazilian comedian. “Muhammad Ali was the Pelé of boxing. Michael Phelps was the Pelé of swimming. Roger Federer was the Pelé of tennis. Pelé was Pelé. Everlasting, unrestricted and an adjective.”

Pelé had a worldwide impact.

“For a sport that brings the world together like no other, Pelé’s rise from humble beginnings to soccer legend is a story of what is feasible,” President Biden said.

“Pele made tens of millions of young boys within the Global South to dream,” said William Samoei Ruto, the president of Kenya. “His profile as a worldwide icon of sporting excellence and high athletic achievement was an inspirational model which encouraged young men to transcend their limitations and defy all economic, social, cultural and political barriers.”

“Probably the most divine of footballers and joyous of men,” the English commentator and former star player Gary Lineker said. “He played a game only a number of chosen ones have come near. 3 times he lifted probably the most coveted gold trophy in that lovely yellow shirt.”

Leonardo Coelho contributed reporting from Rio de Janeiro, and Victor Mather from Latest York.

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