Brazil’s new President Lula joins thousands paying their respects at Pele’s funeral at the stadium

New Brazilian President Lula joins thousands who pay their respects to Pele at the funeral at the stadium and comfort his widow – hours before the procession through Santos and the private funeral

  • The Brazilian star died on December 29 at the age of 82 after suffering from cancer
  • His body is currently laid out in the stadium of his longtime club Santos
  • Lula, who came to power on January 1, was seen walking past Pele’s coffin on Tuesday

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva paid his respects to Pele’s open coffin on Tuesday as one of his first acts 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 longtime club Santos, where thousands of people turned out to bid him farewell.

Lula, who took office on Sunday in a ceremony that began with a minute’s silence for Pele, paused in front of the coffin of the man widely considered the greatest footballer of all time and hugged his widow and other family members.

Lula will lead the tributes as Brazil bid farewell to the football legend and her most famous son when the 24-hour vigil ends this morning before a procession takes Pele’s coffin through the streets of Santos to a private funeral.

Pictured: Brazil's new President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva comforts Pele's widow at the Soccer Stars guard on Tuesday in Santos, Brazil

Pictured: Brazil’s new President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva comforts Pele’s widow at the Soccer Stars guard on Tuesday in Santos, Brazil

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

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

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

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

Vila Belmiro was adorned with Brazilian flags and No. 10 jerseys, which became popular after Pele started wearing them for Santos and Brazil.

The stands filled with bouquets placed by mourners and sent from around the world by clubs and star players – including Neymar and Ronaldo – while speakers played a song called Eu Sou Pele (I Am Pele), recorded by the Brazilian himself .

His funeral was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. local time, and the burial will take place later Tuesday at a vertical cemetery 600 meters away.

Fans waited in three-hour lines that snaked around the Urbano Caldeira stadium to see his coffin on the pitch’s center circle.

Brazil's new President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (pictured, center) visited Pele's open coffin on Tuesday in one of his first acts as the country's new head of state

Brazil’s new President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (pictured, center) visited Pele’s open coffin on Tuesday in one of his first acts 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 longtime club Santos, where thousands of people turned out 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 coffin while lying 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 longtime club Santos, where thousands of people turned out 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 coffin while lying on the pitch of his former club Santos’ Vila Belmiro Stadium

Soccer 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

Soccer 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 victory after winning the 1970 World Cup in Mexico

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

An hour-long Catholic mass will be celebrated at the stadium at 00:00 GMT before a funeral procession at 16:00 GMT brings his coffin past the home of Pele’s mother, 100-year-old Celeste Arantes, who is alive but none of hers son knows death. Pele will be taken to the funeral at a nearby cemetery for close friends and family at 5 p.m.

The three-time world champion has reportedly chosen a special mausoleum at a ninth-floor burial site in a nearby cemetery from which to guard 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 declared three days of national mourning after Pele’s death.

Lula took office on January 1, beginning his third term as President of Brazil.

One of Lula’s first decisions in office was to repeal the policies of Jair Bolsonar’s far-right government that diluted environmental protections and contributed to deforestation, which rose to a 15-year high, including a measure that encouraged mining on protected indigenous lands .

Lula also reopened the Amazon Fund.

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Maureen Mackey

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