Pele gets spirited final send-off in adopted hometown

Santos, Brazil, Jan 3 (EFE).- Hundreds of fans of the club where Pele spent most of his career paid a raucous final tribute to the Brazilian soccer legend Tuesday, setting off fireworks as they marched behind the funeral cortege making its way through the streets of Santos.

To the sound of drums, they waved enormous banners honoring the late King of Football and sang the Santos FC anthem: “A thousand goals, a thousand goals, only Pele.”

The coffin holding the remains of the man born Edson Arantes do Nascimento rode on a fire truck, accompanied by police officers in dress uniform.

The route included a pass down the city’s seafront to the home of Pele’s mother, Celeste Arantes, who recently turned 100.

The only man to win three World Cups will be laid to rest in a private ceremony at the Ecumenical Memorial Cemetery, which is visible from the stadium where he played more than 200 matches for Santos FC.

Pele died last Thursday at the age of 82 after a battle with colon cancer.

Some 230,000 people filed past his casket at the stadium over the course of 24 hours ending at 10:00 am Tuesday, including President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, on his first trip since being sworn-in on New Year’s Day for a third term.

The 77-year-old head of state was among the last people to pay respects before the start of a funeral Mass.

“Death comes to everybody, for the kings as well,” the priest said, asking God to grant Pele “happiness, light and peace.”

Lula, a lifelong supporter of the Sao Paulo club Corinthians, Santos FC’s archrival, described Pele as a special figure “who cannot be compared with anyone.”

Once in heaven, Lula said, Pele “will again play football, but for Corinthians and not for Santos.” EFE cms-mp/dr

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