Fans queue in Brazil to pay respects to footballing legend Pelé ahead of funeral

Steve Scott reports from Brazil, where football fans have been paying their respects to Pelé

Brazilian fans have flocked to the Vila Belmiro Stadium ahead of Pelé’s funeral in his hometown of Santos.

The football legend died on Thursday, aged 82, after suffering with colon cancer.

Mourners began paying their respects to Pelé in a solemn procession past his coffin at the Vila Belmiro Stadium in his hometown of Santos on Monday.

Pelé scored some of the best goals of his career at the 16,000-seat stadium outside Sao Paulo.

Pele's coffin is carried for his wake on the pitch of the Vila Belmiro stadium in Santos, Brazil. Credit: AP

His funeral is scheduled to start on Tuesday morning, at 10 am local time. The burial will take place in a nearby 'vertical cemetery' - a multi-storey building used to house the dead in some densely-populated countries.

Fans started arriving at the stadium in the early hours of Monday to pay their last respects to Pelé, real name Edson Arantes do Nascimento.

Among the mourners was FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who told journalists that every country should name a stadium after the three-time World Cup winner. “I am here with a lot of emotion, sadness, but also with a smile because he gave us so many smiles,” Infantino said.

“As FIFA, we will pay a tribute to the ‘King’ and we ask the whole world to observe a minute of silence.”

Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes also paid his respects.

"It is a very sad moment, but we are now seeing the real meaning of this legendary player to our country," Mr Mendes said.

Pele was one of the greatest footballers of all time. Credit: AP

"My office has shirts signed by Pelé, a picture of him as a goalkeeper, also signed by him. DVDs, photos, a big collection of him."

Mr Mendes also said Pelé was a humble man despite his global fame, and that he deserves every tribute.

Inside the Vila Belmiro, a large tent has been set to place Pelé's coffin.

Some fans camped over night. Credit: AP

After the footballer's funeral, his casket will be ushered through the streets of Santos before his burial.

Brazil President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and other dignitaries are expected to attend.

Pelé had undergone treatment for colon cancer since 2021.

The medical centre where he had been hospitalised said he died of multiple organ failure as a result of the cancer.

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