WATCH: Pelé’s hearse is greeted with fireworks in front of the guard
Thousands of mourners lined up throughout the night to pay their respects to Brazilian legend Pele, who lies at the site of his former club Santos.
Pele’s coffin was placed in the center of the pitch at Urbano Caldeira Stadium in Sao Paulo and fans lined the streets to get into the ground.
The three-time world champion died on December 29 at the age of 82.
A procession will take place through the streets of Santos for a private family funeral on Tuesday at 12:00 GMT.
“We will ask every country in the world to name one of their football stadiums after Pele,” said Fifa President Gianni Infantino, who attended the commemoration.
The Brazilian government declared three days of national mourning after Pele’s death.
Brazil’s new President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will travel to Santos, a city in Sao Paulo state, to pay his respects at the end of the 24-hour vigil.
Pele, arguably the world’s greatest player of all time, has been treated for colon cancer since 2021.
“There will be no one like Pele” – fans pay tribute
Thousands of fans gathered in the streets when the hearse arrived at the stadium on Monday morning, and some queued overnight to see the coffin.
Former Brazil midfielder Ze Roberto and Pele’s son Edinho helped carry his coffin, while Neymar, Vinicius Junior and Real Madrid sent wreaths of flowers.
Beatrice woke up at 6am to travel from the city of Soracaba to Santos with her husband and had been waiting in line for more than two hours.
“I am determined to pay my last respects to him,” the 56-year-old told the BBC.
Beatrice queued for more than three hours to see Pele lying in state
When asked what Pele meant to Brazilians aside from football, Beatrice said he helped unite modern Brazil by breaking racist standards in Brazilian society, transforming the world of football and society in general for black Brazilians to open.
Wilson Genio lined up with his 13-year-old son Miguel, who wore white roses and a family treasure: a Santos Football Club flag personally autographed by the legend.
The flag reads: “To the Genio family, your friend Pele”.
The Genio men had arrived overnight in the hearse carrying Pele’s body from Sao Paolo. “We followed him all the way. We’ve been here since 3:30 a.m.,” they said.
“We could go another 1,000, 2,000 years and there will be no one like Pele. He’s the only legend.”
Wilson Genio and his son Miguel lined up to pay their respects with a flag signed by Pele himself
“The whole city is drawn to the stadium”
Frances Mao from the BBC in Santos
It’s sweltering hot – around 30 degrees in Santos, but it feels like the whole city is being drawn into the heart of Vila Belmiro Stadium, where Pele’s coffin lies.
A steady stream of mourners moves through the center to pay their respects – sometimes a breath of applause breaks out as they pass his coffin. People from all over Brazil – and all over the world – have come. I spot a Mexican flag, a Dutch pin.
Several news helicopters are circling overhead. People wear the striped black and white jerseys of the Santos Football Club – Pelés Team – or the yellow jersey of the Brazilian national team.
Pele’s voice booms across the stadium stands – his 2006 song “Meu Legado,” meaning “My Legacy,” is on repeat.
A line of thousands snaked its way through half a dozen blocks in front of the stadium. It’s a two-hour wait in the midday sun.
Men have removed their shirts to wrap them around their heads like bandanas. Others fan themselves with the tribute newspaper printed just for the day. Some have prepared with hats, umbrellas and their honours.
Sometimes a Mexican wave laps through. There are occasional chants from Pele! Rei! But more often than not, in the heat, the crowds are patient, waiting their turn to say goodbye.
Hundreds of firecrackers were set off on Monday when Pele arrived at Santos stadiumThe city of Santos is preparing to bid farewell to their hero Pele, who has made 656 competitive appearances for the clubSeveral authorities are expected to attend the commemoration, including newly sworn Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da SilvaPele’s body will lie at Santos Stadium for 24 hours for the public to pay their respectsFifa President Gianni Infantino attended the commemorationThousands of mourners from all over the world are expected in Santos