An emotional Brazil began paying its final respects Monday to football legend Pele with a wake at the stadium where he first took the world’s breath away with his dazzling skill. Hundreds of fans lined up Monday morning to file through the Vila Belmiro, home to Pele’s longtime club, Santos, where the coffin bearing the remains of “O Rei” (The King) was displayed in the center of the field. Pele, a three-time World Cup winner widely considered the greatest footballer of all time, died Thursday at the age of 82 after a long battle with cancer.
Carlos Mota and his 12-year-old son Bernardo traveled more than 500 kilometers (300 miles) from Rio de Janeiro to Santos, a southeastern port city in Sao Paulo state, to pay tribute to their late hero.
“My whole childhood was influenced by what Pele did for Brazil, by his World Cup wins. He was a national idol,” Mota, 59, told AFP. “I never saw Pele play, but I’ve seen the videos. He’s the greatest player who ever walked the Earth,” said Bernardo.
The oceanside stadium of the team nicknamed “Peixe” — “fish” in Portuguese — opened its doors at 10:00 am (1300 GMT) for a 24-hour wake, to be followed by a funeral procession through the streets of Santos on Tuesday, then a private interment.
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