Tuesday, as Brazil bid its ultimate farewell to football hero Pele, widely regarded as the greatest player of all time, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva presided over the tributes.
In the city of Santos in the country’s southeast, which is home to the team where he spent the majority of his illustrious career, a throng of supporters, legislators, and football dignitaries gathered to pay their respects to the player known as “The King.”
More than 230,000 people, according to Santos FC, attended his 24-hour wake at the Vila Belmiro stadium, where a steady flow of mourners persisted well into the night.
Lula, who assumed office on Sunday during a ceremony that began with a moment of respect for Pele, arrived by helicopter for the wake and greeted Marcia Cibele Aoki, Pele’s widow, who was inconsolable.
The president and First Lady Rosangela “Janja” da Silva stopped in front of Pele’s casket and hugged Aoki and other family members, clearly saddened.
“Goodbye to the King. Rest in peace, Pele,” the president later wrote on Twitter.
In his more than two-decade career with Santos (1956–1974), the Brazilian national team, and the New York Cosmos, Pele, the only player in history to win three World Cups, set a record of 1,281 goals (1975-77).
After a cancer fight, he passed away on Thursday at the age of 82.
A brief Catholic service marked the conclusion of his wake, and ten state police guards in dress uniform then covered his black casket.