The funeral program for the football legend Edson Arantes do Nascimento famously known as Pelé is underway in his home town Santos.
The Vila Belmiro Stadium in the state of Sao Paulo, home of the Santos FC, the team where Pele spent most of his career, will host the 2-day funeral service. The body will then be taken through the streets of Santos to the Ecumenical Necropolis Memorial for a private burial.
President Jair Bolsonaro declared three days of mourning after the news of Pele’s passing.
Burial arrangements and ‘Vertical Crematorium’
Pele’s last wish was to choose the ninth floor of a cemetery in his beloved home city of Santos for his final resting place.
It is a special poignant homage to his dear dad who always wore the Number 9 shirt as a player.
As I turned from where Pele’s coffin will lay forever I could clearly see the iconic Santos stadium barely half a mile away.
His devoted fans believe that Pele will always be able to “see” his favourite football pitch for eternity.
The Brazilian star – the only man in history to have won three World cups – spent a lot of time selecting his final ‘burial’ spot.
But in the end it wasn’t the great cities of Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo that he chose but a simple decision to honour his dad and his club.
His dad Dondinho was a centre forward who loved wearing the No 9 shirt and Pele wanted to pay his respects to him.
On Tuesday Pele’s coffin will be gently slipped into this vault watched by grieving family and friends alongside his father forever.
Many of the details surrounding the ceremony remain secret but the Mirror understands the coffin will be a special golden colour and it will have several carvings and etchings of iconic Pele images on its sides.
Today fans flocked to the Memorial Necropole Ecumenica cemetery to pay their respects.
They took the lift to the ninth floor of the world’s tallest vertical cemetery and stood in silence by the family vault.
Many brought their children and posed for selfies.
One man was close to tears as he recalled Pele’s contribution to football and that of Dondinho, who is buried in the same crypt.
He said: “We wanted to come today because this will all be sealed off by the police tomorrow.
“We came to pay our respects and show the children Pele’s final resting place and what the city of Santos meant to him.
“And it overlooks the Vila Belmiro stadium where he graced the pitch on so many occasions.”
Friends said Pele also chose it because it transmitted “spiritual peace and tranquillity” and “didn’t look like a cemetery”.
Today, hundreds of thousands of people are expected to file past his coffin as it sits in the centre circle of the stadium.
Then on Tuesday his funeral cortege will pass down the Santos suburb where his 100-year-old mother Dona Celeste still lives.
She is in ill health and has not been told about her son’s death. Dona Celeste’s daughter Maria Lucia do Nascimento, who looks after her, said: “We talk but she doesn’t know the situation. She’s in her own world.”
Dondinho died in 1996 and Pele’s abiding memory as a child was his dad weeping uncontrollably when Brazil lost the 1950 World Cup after a shock defeat to Uruguay.
He promised he would bring the Jules Rimet trophy back himself which he did as a 17-year-old just eight years later when he was playing for Santos and selected for Brazil.
Outside the ground fans wearing both the yellow and green of Brazil and the famous black and white of Santos gather to pay their respects. Schoolchildren lay hand-drawn pictures below a statue of Pele.
At the Cofraria do Alemao bar right outside Gate 8 at the stadium fans sit and drink Brahma beer and reminisce about their favourite Pele memories.
The owner Alberto Francisco, who has a tattoo of the Santos badge on his forehead, knew Pele. He says: “Pele was the greatest.”
The club president, Andres Rueda said: “Pelé did not die, Pelé is eternal and he will live in our hearts forever,”
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