Brazilians pay last respects to soccer legend Pelé 

Fans line up outside stadium in hometown of the soccer great, who died at 82 last week after a battle with cancer

Soccer fans line up to attend the funeral of the late Brazilian soccer legend Pele at the Vila Belmiro stadium in Santos, Brazil, Jan. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Soccer fans line up to attend the funeral of the late Brazilian soccer legend Pele at the Vila Belmiro stadium in Santos, Brazil, Jan. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

SANTOS, Brazil (AP) — Fans lined up early Monday outside the Vila Belmiro Stadium ahead of Pelé’s funeral in his hometown of Santos.

The Brazilian soccer great died Thursday after a battle with cancer. He was 82.

Pelé scored some of the best goals of his career at the 16,000-seat stadium outside Sao Paulo. His funeral is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. local time, and the burial will occur in a vertical cemetery only 600 meters away on Tuesday.

Fans started arriving at the stadium in the early hours of Monday to pay their last respects to Edson Arantes do Nascimento, globally known as Pelé.

One of them was Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes.

“It is a very sad moment, but we are now seeing the real meaning of this legendary player to our country,” Mendes told journalists. “My office has shirts signed by Pelé, a picture of him as a goalkeeper, also signed by him. DVDs, photos, a big collection of him.”

Soccer fans sleep outside the Vila Belmiro stadium waiting for the doors to open for the funeral of the late Brazilian soccer star Pele, in Santos, Brazil, Jan. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

Mendes also said Pelé was a humble man despite his global fame, and that he deserves every tribute.

Inside the Vila Belmiro, a large tent has been set to place Pelé’s coffin.

Soccer fans wait outside the Vila Belmiro stadium for the doors to open for the funeral of the late Brazilian soccer star Pele, in Santos, Brazil, Monday, Jan. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

After Pelé’s funeral, his casket will be ushered through the streets of Santos before his burial. Brazil President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and other dignitaries are expected to attend.

FILE – In this June 21, 1970 file photo, Brazil’s Pele holds up his team’s Jules Rimet Trophy, or the FIFA World Cup Trophy, following Brazil’s 4-1 victory over Italy at the World Cup at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. (AP Photo, File)

Pelé had undergone treatment for colon cancer since 2021. The medical center where he had been hospitalized said he died of multiple organ failure as a result of cancer.

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