Brazil begins three days of mourning as country lights up in honour of Pelé

Tributes continue to be paid the world over to the man that changed football forever

Brazillian landmarks including Christ the Redeemer and the Maracana stadium were lit up in green and yellow in honour of football icon Pelé, who has died aged 82.

Pelé - widely regarded as the greatest footballer of all time - was the only player to win the World Cup three times and was Brazil's joint-top goalscorer.

He had undergone treatment for colon cancer since 2021 and had been hospitalised in Sao Paulo for the last month with multiple ailments before passing away on Thursday.

Brazil's outgoing president Jair Bolsonaro declared a three-day period of mourning following the death of Pelé - born Edson Arantes do Nascimento.

Christ the Redeemer statue is illuminated in the colours of the Brazilian national flag to honour Pele. Credit: AP
A boy poses in front of a flag of Pele outside the Vila Belmiro stadium, home of Santos FC. Credit: AP

A 24-hour wake, open to the public, will be held at the stadium of Santos FS, Pelé's hometown club where he began playing as a teenager, with his coffin lying at the centre of the field.

The last time national mourning was declared was when Queen Elizabeth II died in September.

On Tuesday his coffin will be paraded through the neighbourhood where his 100-year-old mother lives before a private burial.

Tributes have been paid across the world, including from Brazillian forward Neymar, who matched Pelé's record of 77 international goals during this year's World Cup in Qatar.

He wrote in an Instagram post: "Before Pelé, 10, was just a number.

"I've read this phrase somewhere, at some point in my life. But this sentence, beautiful, is incomplete.

"I would say before Pelé football was just a sport. Pelé has changed it all. He turned football into art, into entertainment.

"He gave voice to the poor, to black people and especially: he gave visibility to Brazil. Soccer and Brazil have raised their status thanks to the King! He's gone but his magic remains. Pelé is forever."

Sir Bobby Charlton, who played for England during its 1966 World Cup victory, described Pelé as a "magical footballer and a wonderful human being".

He added: "It was an honour to have shared a pitch with him and I send my sincerest condolences to his family, friends and the Brazilian people.”

The Maracana Stadium is lit up in honour of Pelé. Credit: AP
Brazil has now entered a three-day period of mourning. Credit: AP

Portuguese football star Christiano Ronaldo said: “A simple goodbye to the eternal King Pelé will never be enough to express the pain that hits the entire world of football at this moment.

"An inspiration for so many millions, a reference of yesterday, today, always. The affection he has always shown for me was reciprocal in every moment we shared, even at distance.

"He will never be forgotten and his memory will last for ever in each and everyone of us football lovers. Rest in peace, King Pelé.”

NASA scientists joined Pele fans to honour him by releasing an image of a spiral galaxy with the colours of the Brazilian flag.

The photo was named in the 1700s but the photo was re-released on Thursday, with Nasa writing: "We mark the passing of the legendary Pelé, known to many as the king of the "beautiful game."

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes Pele’s influence in the world game will be everlasting.

Guardiola said: “On behalf of Manchester City, the biggest condolences for his family and friends. Football is football thanks to these types of people. “Neymar said a great sentence when he said before (Pele) number 10 was just a number and after it became something special. “Every top player wanted to wear number 10 in their team. What he has done for football is there and always will remain. “It’s like a good movie, the legacy after many years. That we are still talking about him like a good movie or a good book is because he was so good. “I think Pele, (Diego) Maradona, (Johan) Cruyff, (Lionel) Messi, (Franz) Beckenbauer, Cristiano Ronaldo – these type of players will be forever, they will be eternal."

France coach Didier Deschamps said: “He made people dream and continued to do that with generations and generations of lovers of our sport.

“Who, as a child, didn’t dream of being Pelé? ... Pelé was the alliance of beauty and efficiency. His talent and his list of achievements will stay engraved in our minds forever.”

Pelé's grace, athleticism and mesmerising moves transfixed players and fans. He orchestrated a fast, fluid style that revolutionised the sport — a samba-like flair that personified his country's elegance on the field.

Pele lifted above after winning his - and Brazil's - third World Cup in Mexico in 1970. Credit: AP

Not only was he a great player and wonderful ambassador, he was also a cultural icon, and remains the face of a purity in football that existed long before big money and global geopolitics infiltrated the game.

At the Pelé Soccer Store in Anaheim, California, a steady stream of fans came to take photos of a small photo tribute to him and buy replica jerseys and shirts in his memory.

"For me, I will always carry Pelé in my heart, for how he inspired generations," said fan Rick San-Martin, fighting back tears.

San-Martin grew up in Chile watching Pelé on TV. "When you played on the street, you were always Pelé," he said. "Long live the king."

Well-wishers pay tribute outside the headquarters of CONMEBOL, South America's governing football body. Credit: AP

Pelé's face was also illuminated on the headquarters of CONMEBOL, South America's governing football body, with families taking pictures by the memorial.

At Brazil's embassy in Tokyo, the Brazilian flag was flown at half-mast out of respect for the player.

Meanwhile in New York, pictures of Pelé's face lit up in Times Square as his death was announced.

Visiting from Denmark, artist Amir Hussain salt to create a mural for the footballer, who once famously described football as "o jogo bonito" – the beautiful game.

Amir Hussain, visiting from Denmark, uses table salt to draw a tribute to Pelé in Times Square, New York Credit: AP

"I grew up playing soccer and to think about like the first player you ever hear about the Brazilian legend," said fan Jonathan Perez, 23.

"He changed the landscape of the game. I mean, he brought it to what it is. And then you have guys like Ronaldo, Messi who no matter how far they go, whenever they succeed, they're always compared to him.

"So he's just a legend of the game. And it's sad that he passed."

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