PELE has been laid to rest in a private ceremony after his body lay in state for 24 hours before being carried through the streets of his hometown of Santos in Brazil.
The Brazilian footballing legend – who died of cancer on 29th December aged 82 – was buried on the ninth floor of the Memorial Necropole Ecumenica cemetery on Tuesday, which overlooks Urbano Caldeira stadium in his hometown of Santos, in a private ceremony after his body was transported through the streets, where thousands of people had lined the route to pay their final respects.
Pele’s body had been lying in state in the centre circle of the pitch at Santos’ stadium for 24 hours before a procession carried his coffin to the vertical cemetery via a route that passed his former family home, where his 100-year-old mother Celeste and his sister watched on.
He was then buried in a private ceremony with just his family present.
Among those at the stadium – where Pele spent almost his entire club career from 1956 to 1974 – were the sportsman’s best friend and former teammate Manoel Maria.
He said: “If I had all the wealth in the world, I would never be able to repay what this man did for me and my family.
“He was as great a man as he was as a player – the best of all time. His legacy will outlive us all, and that can be seen in this long line with people of all ages here.”
The country’s new president, Lula, arrived by helicopter at the stadium and spent around 30 minutes next to Pele’s coffin, which was draped with a Brazilian flag.
He told Santos TV: “Pele is incomparable, as a soccer player and as a human being.
“The most fantastic thing is that Pelé never held his nose in the air, he treated everyone the same.”
Ex-Santos FC president Marcelo Teixeira hailed Pelé a “fantastic human being”.
He added: “He had a generous heart, not just because he was the athlete of the century. He always looked after people in a really sincere, humble way.”