Pele’s 24-Hour Funeral Attracted More Than 200,000 Mourners

SANTOS, Brazil – Looks like the city is sleeping. The streets were empty, the shops were closed, and dogs howled in the distance. Then, a few blocks from the football stadium that put this port city on the map, there were signs of life. Its a lot.

Popcorn seller. Men grilling meat. A group of street vendors selling T-shirts. And a charging hair salon for its bathroom.

It was 3 a.m., and thousands of people had lined up in orderly lines stretching about two-thirds of a mile to wait to see his body. one of the greatest athletes in history in the last moments before burial. football star Pelé’s 24 Hours of Wake I’m at the 17th hour, and looking at the crowd, one day is probably not enough. Santos football club estimated that 230,000 mourners attended the stadium.

“This is not a sacrifice,” said Walter Henrique, 35, a tax analyst, who has traveled three hours to wake up and has to work five more hours, but a few more hours before he does. lined up. “He’s brought us so much joy and it’s a pleasure to be here.”

The pre-dawn crowds in Santos have different reasons for coming at such an hour. The mourners blocked roads from São Paulo, trapping many road users. Some left work late, or they wanted to avoid the midday sun. And still others believe that if they arrive while the city is asleep, they will avoid the line.

“It’s not a good strategy,” said Vinícius Fortes, 58, a software engineer who arrived with his family at 1:15 a.m. local time and found the line was much longer than expected. “I voted not to stay. I said, ‘Look, we’re going to wait two hours to be near a box for 10 seconds.’”

He was disqualified. Now his family has been waiting for two hours, and it looks like they have an hour left. “But every day you go home and sleep,” Fortes added. “This is a moment in your life that you will remember forever.”

Fortes’ 27-year-old son, Guilherme, was the only one who had to work in the morning, but he appeared unfazed, even as they read the news that the line had been halted for 30 minutes because of officials. changing flowers. “I’ve made worse decisions in my life,” he said.

The mood wasn’t exactly somber, but the crowd was sober. A street vendor, Ednalva Cruz da Silva, had a pile of alcohol on the rocks, including a can of Brahma beer and a bottle of Johnnie Walker whiskey, but no one was involved. Instead, she’s selling water and soda. “Usually there are about 100 beers per country,” she said. “That’s not the idea tonight.”

However, the flow of people was a bit larger as the stadium approached. In particular, one group is leading with chants for the Santos soccer team — including a reference to the time in 1967 when Pelé’s presence brought a cease-fire to the Nigerian civil war.

The group has become something of a draw at an event where people are looking for distraction. Nine men had lined up to meet, bonded together for the previous three hours: a police officer, a supermarket worker, three high school students, two cooks, a Rastafarian carpenter with a ball rock and owner of an industrial automation company in an ankle-length gown and hijab. He dressed to the World Cup in Qatarbut wore a Santos patch a few hours before, and now pose for a photo for hours.

“Pelé is king,” said João de Souza, 58, a headscarf and sunglasses businessman at 3:30 a.m. “He showed the Brazilian spirit to the whole world, showed Brazil has courage.”

Pedro Camargo de Souza, 17, a high school student in the group, said he took public transport for three hours to get there. “I came here alone because I am the only Santos fan in the family,” he said. “They think I’m crazy but what are they going to do?”

As they approached the entrance, the stadium staff ordered the group to form a line and led them along. “Good evening,” said one of the people who opened the door. “Or good morning.”

At 3:40 a.m., they walked through the gate and into the courtyard. Silence fell over the crew. Only the faint sound of Pelé singing a samba tune, “my legacy,” a track that he released in 2006 and played over and over at the stadium while he was lying in state.

Many men held up their phones, filming the flowers; the banner reads: “Long live the king”; and Jumbotron with the crown image.

Then, just as they approached Pelé’s body in the middle of the courtyard – lying in a dark coffin, covered with flowers and covered with a veil – silence broke out over the roar of more than 100 men. It was one of Santos’ fan clubs, chanting team slogans, waving four giant flags and lighting flares in a pre-dawn memorial next to Pelé’s coffin.

The nine men watched in amazement, but the line continued to move. Within three minutes, the group was back outside. “I cried,” said Camargo, the high school student. “I would do it 10 more times, a thousand times. I will do it many times when Pelé scores.”

They gathered again next to a toast truck. They exchanged contacts and recap the moment. Some have gone home. Others will stay on the road or sleep in their cars before the funeral crosses the streets later that day, ending at the cemetery where Pelé’s coffin will be placed in an aboveground grave.

“He rests now,” said João de Souza. “But his legacy, his reign, will be eternal.”


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