Associated Press: SANTOS, Brazil (AP) — Brazil said a final farewell to Pelé on Tuesday, burying the legend who unified the bitterly divided country.
Newly inaugurated President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva paid his respects at Vila Belmiro, the stadium where Pelé played for most of his career.
Pelé was laid to rest in the city where he grew up and became famous, and which became a global capital of his sport. Mass was held at the Vila Belmiro stadium before the black casket was driven through the streets of the city of Santos in a fire truck.
It was taken into the cemetery as bands played the Santos team’s official song, and a Catholic hymn. Before the golden-wrapped casket arrived, attendees sang samba songs that Pelé had liked.
Meanwhile, FIFA President Gianni Infantino has told journalists that every country should name a stadium after Pelé.
“I am here with a lot of emotion, sadness, but also with a smile because he gave us so many smiles,” the head of football’s governing body said.
“As FIFA, we will pay a tribute to the ‘King’ and we ask the whole world to observe a minute of silence.”
Some legends of Pelé’s sport weren’t there for his funeral.
“Where’s Ronaldo Nazario? Where’s Kaká, where’s Neymar?” asked Claudionor Alves, 67, who works at a bakery next to the stadium. “Do they think they will be remembered like Pelé will? These guys didn’t want to stop their vacations, that’s the problem.”
Another notable absentee was Jair Bolsonaro, whose term as president ended December 31. A day before, he departed capital Brasilia on a flight to Florida, shirking the ceremonial duty of passing the presidential sash to Lula. Bolsonaro is staying in a condominium complex outside Orlando and has been filmed speaking to neighbours.
Geovana Sarmento, 17, waited in the three-hour line to view his body as it lay in repose. She came with her father, who was wearing a Brazil shirt with Pelé’s name.
“I am not a Santos fan, neither is my father. But this guy invented Brazil’s national team. He made Santos stronger, he made it big, how could you not respect him? He is one of the greatest people ever, we needed to honour him,” she said.
Caio Zalke, 35, an engineer, wore a Brazil shirt as he waited in line. “Pelé is the most important Brazilian of all time. He made the sport important for Brazil and he made Brazil important for the world,” he said.
Pelé had undergone treatment for colon cancer since 2021. The medical centre where he had been hospitalised said he died of multiple organ failure as a result of the cancer.
Pelé led Brazil to World Cup titles in 1958, 1962 and 1970 and remains one of the team’s all-time leading scorers with 77 goals. Neymar tied Pelé’s record during this year’s World Cup in Qatar.
Top Feature Photo: The casket of late Brazilian football great Pele is draped in the Brazilian and Santos FC football club flags as his remains are transported from Vila Belmiro stadium, where he laid in state, to the cemetery during his funeral procession in Santos, Brazil, Tuesday, January 3, 2023 – AP Photo/Matias Delacroix