Forty-five years after Pele played his last game as a player, it’s hard to imagine modern football, or Brazil, without him. Pele is due to be buried on Tuesday in the city where he grew up and became famous, and helped turn it into the “world capital of football”.
A funeral procession carrying his body will also roam the streets of Santos, where he will be buried in a private ceremony.
New Brazilian President Lula da Silva, who was sworn in last Sunday, is expected to attend Villa Belmero shortly before the coffin is removed from the stadium.
Pele died last Thursday at the age of 82 after a battle with cancer, and he is the only player to win the World Cup three times.
Thousands of mourners, including high school students and Supreme Court justices, stood on Monday in front of Pele’s body in the century-old stadium where Pele made his hometown club one of the best in Brazil.
Pele’s coffin, which was covered with the flags of Brazil and Santos, was placed in the middle of the Villa Belmero stadium.
The stadium, which seats 16,000, was surrounded by fans and covered with decorations inspired by Pele’s career.
Brazilians leaving the stadium said they had waited three hours in a long line under the scorching sun to say goodbye to Pele