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02 March 2024

Brazil's Lula pays respects to pele as 150,000 attend stadium wake

By Reuters

More than 150,000 people including President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva paid their respects to the Brazilian soccer great pele in the coastal city of Santos, filing past pele's open casket at the Vila Belmiro stadium to bid a final farewell.

A 24-hour memorial service for pele, who died last week at the age of 82 after battling colon cancer for a year, started at 10 a.m. (1300 GMT) on Monday and is set to end on Tuesday morning.

People formed long lines outside the stadium in Santos, where pele lived for most of his life, and waited for up to two hours to pay their respects even overnight, according to Santos Football Club.

"Long live the king," a giant banner read inside the stadium. Dubbed the 'king of soccer,' pele played for Santos from 1956 to 1974, scoring more than 1,000 goals.

Newly sworn-in President Lula arrived by helicopter on Tuesday morning and stood next to pele's casket, draped with a Brazilian flag, in the center of the soccer field.

"Few Brazilians carried the name of our country as far as he did," Lula said last week after pele's death.

Celebrities and authorities also paid their respects. FIFA President Gianni Infantino was one of the first to attend the memorial on Monday and said he would ask football associations around the world to name a stadium after pele.

A procession carrying pele's coffin is set to pass through the streets of Santos later on Tuesday, passing the neighborhood where his 100-year-old mother lives, and ending at the Ecumenical Memorial Necropolis cemetery, where he will be buried in a private ceremony.