Brazilian president Lula joins the mourners at wake for football icon Pelé

REUTERS - CARLA CARNIEL

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva paid his last respects on Tuesday to Pelé during a wake for the former Brazil international on the pitch at FC Santos where the player rose to prominence as a teenager in the late 1950s. Lula took office on Sunday in a ceremony that began with a minute's silence for the former striker who died on 29 December from cancer.

Less than 48 hours later inside the Vila Belmiro stadium, a visibly moved Lula and First Lady Rosangela da Silva paused before Pelé's coffin and embraced Marcia Cibele Aoki - Pelé's widow - and other family members.

The newly inaugurated president was among 230,000 people who came from across Brazil to say farewell during the 24-hours that the 82-year-old's body lay in state.

Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento in 1940 in Três Corações in the south-eastern state of Minas Gerais, he was nicknamed Pelé during his childhood.

Barely out of it, he made his professional debut with Santos at 15.

Two years later at the 1958 World Cup, he announced his talent with displays that helped Brazil to their first world title. He was part of the squad that retained the crown in 1962.

The 'King'

Vicous fouling forced him to hobble out injured at the 1966 tournament. But he returned in spectacular splendour in the blazing heat of Mexico in 1970.

By now dubbed 'The King', he was the epicentre of an imperious Brazil side that heaped bravura upon extravagance in their sweep to the final against Italy.

The performances are widely considered the crystallisation of the beautiful game.


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