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New Brazilian President Lula joins thousands paying their respects to Pele at stadium funeral

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Pele’s coffin has been cheered along the streets of Santos after being carried out of his beloved stadium as thousands of mourners including new president Lula came to pay their respects to the Brazilian footballing icon. 

Throngs of fans, bikers and drivers honked their horns and tried to touch the fire engine carrying the coffin, almost bringing the procession to a standstill as it moved from the Vila Belmiro stadium to the burial site, passing the beach and the house of Pele’s 100-year-old mother.

His grieving sister Maria Lucia appeared on the balcony and waved to the throngs below but his mother Celeste Arantes did not make an appearance.

Earlier, Lula and his first lady, Rosangela ‘Janja’ da Silva, were visibly moved at the open casket service and paused before the coffin, and embraced Pele’s grieving widow, while a minute’s silence for the triple World Cup winner was also held.

Before today’s procession and service, an estimated 230,000 people stood in hours-long queues to visit his open casket following the death of one of the world’s greatest ever footballers aged 82 on December 29 after a long battle with cancer.

Huge crowds of fans almost brought the procession to a standstill as it moved from the Vila Belmiro stadium to the burial site

Tens of thousands of fans, political leaders and football dignitaries including FIFA president Gianni Infantino have filed through the stadium since the wake began Monday morning

Tens of thousands of fans, political leaders and football dignitaries including FIFA president Gianni Infantino have filed through the stadium since the wake began Monday morning

Pele's coffin has been cheered along the streets of Santos after being carried out of his beloved Santos stadium

Pele’s coffin has been cheered along the streets of Santos after being carried out of his beloved Santos stadium

Throngs of fans, bikers and drivers honked their horns and tried to touch the fire engine carrying the black coffin

Throngs of fans, bikers and drivers honked their horns and tried to touch the fire engine carrying the black coffin

The casket was draped in the flags of Santos and Brazil as it was carried through the thronging crowd in Santos today

The casket was draped in the flags of Santos and Brazil as it was carried through the thronging crowd in Santos today

A mourner reacts as Brazilian soccer legend Pele is transported by the fire department

A mourner reacts as Brazilian soccer legend Pele is transported by the fire department

The black coffin was draped in the flags of Brazil and Santos as it was carried on the back of a fire truck through the streets

The black coffin was draped in the flags of Brazil and Santos as it was carried on the back of a fire truck through the streets 

The woman wearing a Santos shirt could not control her emotions as Brazil continues to mourn one of its most famous sons

The woman wearing a Santos shirt could not control her emotions as Brazil continues to mourn one of its most famous sons

Fans threw white petals during the emotional procession through the streets of his boyhood club Santos

Fans threw white petals during the emotional procession through the streets of his boyhood club Santos

In this aerial picture fans of the late Brazilian football star Pele gather on the street as a firetruck transports Pele's coffin to the Santos' Memorial Cemetery

In this aerial picture fans of the late Brazilian football star Pele gather on the street as a firetruck transports Pele’s coffin to the Santos’ Memorial Cemetery

Fans pack the streets and hold up Pele football shirts to pay tribute to their iconic star

Fans pack the streets and hold up Pele football shirts to pay tribute to their iconic star

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

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

Pele's coffin has been carried out of his beloved Santos stadium after thousands of mourners including new president Lula came to pay their respects

Pele’s coffin has been carried out of his beloved Santos stadium after thousands of mourners including new president Lula came to pay their respects

Pele's coffin was carried out of the stadium this morning by pallbearers dressed in black

Pele’s coffin was carried out of the stadium this morning by pallbearers dressed in black

Many were decked out in Santos colours to honour the club's hero as the streets were filled with crowds of mourners

Many were decked out in Santos colours to honour the club’s hero as the streets were filled with crowds of mourners

A vicar wearing a dog collar and a shirt featuring multiple pictures of Pele throughout his footballing career salutes the procession

A vicar wearing a dog collar and a shirt featuring multiple pictures of Pele throughout his footballing career salutes the procession

Mourners began paying their respects to Pele in a solemn procession past his coffin at the Vila Belmiro Stadium in his home town of Santos on Monday.

Pele’s coffin was placed on the Santos field where he scored scored some of the best goals of his career. Thousands of mourners draped in Pele shirts and flags walked past his casket in the 16,000-seat stadium outside Sao Paulo.

Vila Belmiro was decorated with Brazilian flags and No 10 shirts that became popular after Pele started wearing them for Santos and Brazil.

The stands filled up with bouquets of flowers placed by mourners and sent by clubs and star players – Neymar and Ronaldo among them – from around the world as loudspeakers played a song named Eu Sou Pele (I Am Pele) that was recorded by the Brazilian himself.

Fans waited in three-hour queues snaking around the Urbano Caldeira stadium to see his coffin on the centre circle of the pitch. 

Pictured: Brazil 's new president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva comforts Pele's widow at the footballing stars wake in Santos, Brazil on Tuesday

Pictured: Brazil ‘s new president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva comforts Pele’s widow at the footballing stars wake in Santos, Brazil on Tuesday

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (left) greets the son of late Brazilian football legend Pele, Edinho (right), during his wake at the Urbano Caldeira stadium in Santos, January 3

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (left) greets the son of late Brazilian football legend Pele, Edinho (right), during his wake at the Urbano Caldeira stadium in Santos, January 3

Lula and First Lady Rosangela "Janja" da Silva paused before Pele's coffin and embraced his widow and other family members

Lula and First Lady Rosangela ‘Janja’ da Silva paused before Pele’s coffin and embraced his widow and other family members

Lula, who took office Sunday in a ceremony that started with a minute's silence for Pele, travelled to the southeastern city of Santos to pay his respects to family and friends

Lula, who took office Sunday in a ceremony that started with a minute’s silence for Pele, travelled to the southeastern city of Santos to pay his respects to family and friends

The black coffin was carried outside the stadium on a small vehicle before it was transferred to a fire truck for the procession

The black coffin was carried outside the stadium on a small vehicle before it was transferred to a fire truck for the procession

Pelé will be buried Tuesday in the city where he grew up, became famous, and helped make into a global capital of football

Pelé will be buried Tuesday in the city where he grew up, became famous, and helped make into a global capital of football

Fans of the late Brazilian football star Pele observe from windows as a firetruck transports Pele's coffin to the Santos' Memorial Cemetery

Fans of the late Brazilian football star Pele observe from windows as a firetruck transports Pele’s coffin to the Santos’ Memorial Cemetery

As the procession passed by the beach, some dressed in bikinis and trunks came to pay their respects to the legendary footballer

As the procession passed by the beach, some dressed in bikinis and trunks came to pay their respects to the legendary footballer

People pray outside the home of the mother of Brazilian soccer great Pele during his funeral procession

People pray outside the home of the mother of Brazilian soccer great Pele during his funeral procession

Pele will be taken to the burial at a nearby cemetery for close friends and family at 5pm.

The triple World Cup winner reportedly chose a special mausoleum at a burial site on the ninth floor of a nearby cemetery which will allow him to watch over the stadium.

Former Brazil midfielder Ze Roberto and Pele’s son Edinho were among those who placed his coffin on the pitch during a ceremony before fans and well-wishers were allowed to pay their respects.

Brazil’s government had declared three days of national mourning after Pele’s death.

Lula took office on January 1, beginning his third term as Brazil’s president. 

One of Lula’s first decisions in office was to revoke policies of the far-right government of Jair Bolsonar that diluted environmental protection and helped contribute to deforestation that surged to a 15-year high, including a measure that encouraged mining on protected indigenous lands.

Lula also reopened the Amazon Fund.

Mass was celebrated at the Vila Belmiro stadium before his casket was ushered through the streets of Santos to a nearby cemetery

Mass was celebrated at the Vila Belmiro stadium before his casket was ushered through the streets of Santos to a nearby cemetery

The funeral procession through Santos will go past the house of Pele's mother, 100-year-old Celeste Arantes, who is still alive

The funeral procession through Santos will go past the house of Pele’s mother, 100-year-old Celeste Arantes, who is still alive

The massive funeral procession will end at a cemetery where the player widely considered the greatest of all time will be interred in a private ceremony

The massive funeral procession will end at a cemetery where the player widely considered the greatest of all time will be interred in a private ceremony

Brazil's new president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (pictured centre) visited Pele's open casket on Tuesday, as one of his first actions as the country's new head of state

Brazil’s new president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (pictured centre) visited Pele’s open casket on Tuesday, as one of his first actions as the country’s new head of state

The Brazilian star died on December 29 at the age of 82 after a long battle with cancer, and was mourned on Monday and Tuesday at the stadium of his long-time club Santos, where thousands of people arrived to bid him farewell. Pictured: Pele's son Edinho is pictured with mourners as the body of Brazilian soccer legend Pele is seen in his casket, as he lays in state on the pitch of his former club Santos' Vila Belmiro stadium

The Brazilian star died on December 29 at the age of 82 after a long battle with cancer, and was mourned on Monday and Tuesday at the stadium of his long-time club Santos, where thousands of people arrived to bid him farewell. Pictured: Pele’s son Edinho is pictured with mourners as the body of Brazilian soccer legend Pele is seen in his casket, as he lays in state on the pitch of his former club Santos’ Vila Belmiro stadium

Football fans line up to attend the funeral of the late Brazilian soccer legend Pele at the Vila Belmiro stadium in Santos, Brazil, early Tuesday, January 3

Football fans line up to attend the funeral of the late Brazilian soccer legend Pele at the Vila Belmiro stadium in Santos, Brazil, early Tuesday, January 3

Pictured: Pele of Brazil celebrates the victory after winnings the 1970 World Cup in Mexico

Pictured: Pele of Brazil celebrates the victory after winnings the 1970 World Cup in Mexico

‘Pele is incomparable, as a soccer player and as a human being,’ said newly sworn-in Lula who arrived by helicopter at the stadium. 

‘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.

Lula comforted Pele’s family members and listened to a Catholic ceremony alongside First Lady Rosangela da Silva.

‘The most fantastic thing is that Pele never held his nose in the air, he treated everyone the same,’ Lula told Santos TV.

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, the only man to win the World Cup three times as a player.

Some soccer stars attended the wake, including former Brazil midfielder Ze Roberto, who helped place Pele’s coffin in the center of the field on Monday.

But only two of the 67 living Brazilian world champions attended the service – 1994 World Cup winner Mauro Silva, who works for the Sao Paulo state FA, and 1970 champion Clodoaldo, who works for Santos, prompting criticism from some commentators.

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 honor 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.

A notable absentee was Jair Bolsonaro, whose term as president ended Dec. 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 neighbors.

In the 1960s and 70s, Pelé was perhaps the world’s most famous athlete. He met presidents and queens, and in Nigeria a civil war was put on hold to watch him play. Many Brazilians credit him with putting the country on the world stage for the first time.

The crowd was mostly local, although some came from far away. Many mourners were too young ever to have seen Pelé play. The mood was light, as people filtered out of the stadium to local bars, wearing Santos FC and Brazil shirts.

Claudio Carrança, 32, a salesman, said: ‘I never saw him play, but loving Pelé is a tradition that goes from father to son in Santos. I learned his history, saw his goals, and I see how Santos FC is important because he is important. I know some Santos fans have children supporting other teams. But that’s just because they never saw Pelé in action. If they had, they would feel this gratitude I feel now.’

Among those at the stadium was Pelé’s best friend Manoel Maria, also a former Santos player.

‘If I had all the wealth in the world I would never be able to repay what this man did for me and my family,’ Maria said. ‘He was as great a man as he was as a player; the best of all time. His legacy will outlive us all. And that can be seen in this long line with people of all ages here.’

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