Fans poured into the Urbano Calderia Stadium on Monday, but it wasn’t to watch Santos play a game against their biggest rival. They came to pay their respects to the late soccer legend, Pelé.
The Brazilian forward, whose birth name was Edson Arantes do Nascimento, was one of the best to ever play the game. He is the only player to win three World Cups: 1958, 1962, and 1970. Legendary. Pelé began playing for Santos when he was only 15 years old and stayed there for most of his career, besides playing his two final years for the New York Cosmos. He was a role model globally and a national hero for Brazilians. He was beloved by all and continued to inspire even after he hung up his jersey. He worked as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and was appointed an ambassador to the UN. Pelé even received an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II. To say that he was a giant on and off the field was an understatement. So, it is only fitting that Pelé would return to his home, Urbano Calderia Stadium, for one final goodbye.
The soccer legend had been undergoing treatment for colon cancer since September 2021. Due to multiple organ failures, Pelé passed away on Thursday, December 29. Immediately, tributes from fans, soccer players, and global leaders came pouring in to honor the forward, and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announced three days of national mourning for the country. On Monday, January 2, thousands of fans sporting their No. 10 jerseys and waving Brazilian flags began piling into the stadium for the public wake, some even camping out the night before. The public wake is scheduled to be 24 hours long, and then on Tuesday, a funeral procession will take Pelé through the streets of Santos to his final resting place with a private ceremony for his family. According to CNN, the song Meu Legado, meaning my legacy, that Pelé had recorded played on repeat in the stadium with fans singing along.
Football fans everywhere are grieving together as they mourn the loss of one of the greatest to ever play. FIFA President Gianni Infantino said it best when he told reporters, “Pelé is eternal.” RIP King.