Brazil starts three days of mourning for legendary footballer Pelé

© AFP

Tributes poured in from across Brazil and beyond Friday for football legend Pele, as the country held three days of mourning for the player widely regarded as the greatest of all time after his death at age 82.

Emotional Brazilians flocked to the Sao Paulo hospital where "O Rei" (The King) died Thursday, and to the Vila Belmiro stadium in Santos, the city where he played most of his career -- and where his wake will be held Monday.

That will be followed on Tuesday by a massive funeral procession through the southeastern city -- including past the house of Pele's mother, Celeste, who is still alive at 100 -- and then a private burial ceremony.

President Jair Bolsonaro declared three days of national mourning through Saturday, as condolences flooded in from football superstars, global dignitaries and fans from all walks of life.

In Pele's hometown, the southeastern city of Tres Coracoes, house painter Marcelo Cazone proudly brandished an autographed picture of himself as a boy with Pele, which he snagged by cutting school to follow his idol around town in the 1980s.

"I treasure it to this day," he told AFP. "His death is devastating for this whole town, for all of Brazil, for the entire world."

In Santos, 46-year-old Caroline Fornari was among those who flocked to the stadium where Pele first dazzled the world.

"He's part of our history. My father was a huge fan, he talked about him from the time I was little. Pele is our greatest pride," she said of the three-time World Cup winner -- the only player in history to achieve the feat.

(AFP)


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