Some 230,000 mourners including newly inaugurated Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva lined the streets in the coastal city of Santos, Brazil, Tuesday, as a black casket containing the late soccer legend Pelé was transported from the Vila Belmiro stadium to the sports star’s final resting place at the Necropole Ecumenica Memorial Cemetery.
A band greeted the casket as it entered the cemetery, playing a Catholic hymn and the team song for Santos’s local football team, where Pele played for much of his career. Fans also serenaded the casket with samba music, as a tribute to the fallen sports star.
Rows of shirts with Pelé’s number 10 were placed behind one of the goals, waving in the city’s summer winds. A section of the stands was filling up with bouquets of flowers placed by mourners and sent by clubs and star players — Neymar and Ronaldo among them — from around the world as loudspeakers played a song named “Eu sou Pelé” (“I am Pelé”) that was recorded by the Brazilian himself.
In the 1960s and 70s, Pelé was perhaps the world’s most famous athlete. He met presidents and queens, and in Nigeria a civil war was put on hold to watch him play. Many Brazilians credit him with putting the country on the world stage for the first time.
He died last week at the age of 82, and is considered one of the greatest soccer players of all time. He won three FIFA World Cups during his international career — the most of any player.