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Pele funeral: Fans line up to mourn Brazilian soccer great

SANTOS, Brazil (AP) — Fans lined up early Monday outside the Vila Belmiro Stadium ahead of Pele’s funeral in his hometown of Santos.

The Brazilian soccer great died Thursday after a battle with cancer. He was 82.

Pele scored scored some of the best goals of his career at the 16,000-seat stadium outside Sao Paulo. His funeral is scheduled start at 10 a.m. local time, and the burial will take place in a vertical cemetery only 600 meters away on Tuesday.

Fans started arriving at the stadium in the early hours of Monday to pay their last respects to Edson Arantes do Nascimento, globally known as Pele.

One of them was Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes.

“It is a very sad moment, but we are now seeing the real meaning of this legendary player to our country,” Mendes told journalists. “My office has shirts signed by Pele, a picture of him as a goalkeeper, also signed by him. DVDs, photos, a big collection of him.”

Mendes also said Pele was a humble man despite his global fame, and that he deserves every tribute.

Inside the Vila Belmiro, a large tent has been set to place Pele’s coffin.

After Pele’s funeral, his casket will be ushered through the streets of Santos before his burial. Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and other dignitaries are expected to attend.

Pele had undergone treatment for colon cancer since 2021. The medical center where he had been hospitalized said he died of multiple organ failure as a result of the cancer.

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