Thousands of people queued all night to pay their respects to Brazil legend Pele, who is laid to rest on the field of his former club Santos.
Pele’s coffin was placed in the center of the pitch at the Urbano Caldeira stadium in Sao Paulo, with fans lining the streets to get inside the ground.
The three-time World Cup winner died on December 29 at the age of 82.
There will be a procession through the streets of Santos to a private family burial on Tuesday at 12:00 GMT.
“We are going to ask every country in the world to name one of its football stadiums after Pele,” said FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who attended the memorial.
The Brazilian government declared three days of national mourning after Pele’s death.
Brazil’s new president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, will travel to Santos, a city in Sao Paulo state, to pay his respects as the 24-hour vigil draws to a close.
Pele, arguably the best player in the world, has been undergoing treatment for colon cancer since 2021.
“There will be no one else like Pele,” fans pay their respects
Thousands of fans lined the streets as the hearse arrived at the stadium on Monday morning, with some queuing all night to see the coffin.
Former Brazil midfielder Ze Roberto and Pele’s son Edinho helped carry his coffin, while Neymar, Vinicius Junior and Real Madrid sent floral wreaths.
Beatrice woke up at six in the morning to travel with her husband from Soracaba City to Santos and waited in line for more than two hours.
“I am determined to pay my last respects to him,” the 56-year-old said.
When asked what Pele meant to Brazilians apart from football, Beatrice said he helped unify modern Brazil by breaking the racist norms of Brazilian society to open up the world of football and wider society to black Brazilians.
Wilson Genio stood in line with his 13-year-old son Miguel, carrying white roses and a family treasure: a Santos football club flag personally signed by the legend himself.
The flag reads: “Genio family, your friend Pele”.
Genio’s men traveled through the night with the hearse carrying Pele’s body from Sao Paulo. “We followed him all the way. We have been here since 3:30,” they said.
“We can go another 1,000-2,000 years and there will be no one like Pele. He is the only legend.”
“The whole city is drawn to the stadium”
It’s hot in Santos – about 30 degrees, but it feels like the whole city is drawn to the heart of the Vila Belmiro stadium, where Pele’s coffin lies.
A steady stream of mourners pass through the center to pay their last respects – sometimes there is applause as they pass his coffin. People came from all over Brazil and from all over the world. I notice a Mexican flag, a Dutch pin.
Several news helicopters buzz overhead. People are dressed in the striped black-and-white uniforms of the Santos football club — Pele’s team — or the yellow uniforms of the Brazilian national team.
Pele’s voice echoes above the stands in the stadium as his 2006 song “Meu Legado,” meaning “My Legacy,” plays on repeat.
Near the stadium, a queue of thousands of snakes stretches for kilometers through half a dozen city blocks. That’s two hours of waiting in the midday sun.
The men took off their shirts to wrap them around their heads like bandanas. Others wave a newspaper printed for just one day. Some came prepared with hats, umbrellas and their tributes.
Sometimes the Mexican wave breaks through. Pele chants are heard from time to time! Ray! But for the most part, the crowds suffer in the heat, waiting for their turn to say goodbye.