Shortly before dawn this Monday, the Brazilian Euclydes Ferreira Junior put on a Canarinha shirt and drove four hours along the coast to say goodbye to his old friend Edson Arantes do Nascimento, who died at the age of 82 as a result of breast cancer. colon on the 29th. He carried with him a treasure that he has guarded with care for half a century, a faded photograph together with Pele, who was already a planetary idol at that time, a huge footballer, the 10th for Santos FC.
The print is from the times when they were both classmates at the Physical Education faculty, in the seventies. Pele had already won three World Cups, in 1958, 1962 and 1970. The death of his former friend was “great emotion, a very strong feeling,” he says, but also a relief: “We knew that he and his family were suffering a lot. He was in so much pain that we asked God to take him away, ”explains this retired physical trainer with glazed eyes.
Ferreira Junior is one of the thousands of people who have come forward to say goodbye to oh king, to the Santos Futbol Club stadium, which he made famous throughout the world by scoring 1,091 goals in 1,116 games and in addition to winning two of his three Copa Libertadores and his two Intercontinentals. There, in the Vila Belmiro field, Pele played for two decades, almost his entire career. In Santos, Pele (Tres Coracoes, Minas Gerais; 1940) is the neighbor with whom many share a personal story or an anecdote, even if only the older ones were lucky enough to see him play live.
With the New Year’s Eve fireworks off and the New Year ceremonies that kicked off the new government led by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, this Monday came the great official farewell to Pele, the idol who turned football into a mass spectacle and who throughout his professional career was synonymous with Brazil and excellence. His body rested after his death at the Albert Einstein Hospital in São Paulo, where he had been hospitalized for a month and died. The coffin arrived this morning by road to the city where Pele saw the sea for the first time and built his marvelous career. It is a beautiful route that crosses an impressive vegetation that this morning was taken over by the mist.
The footballer’s wake has opened the doors at ten in the morning so that friends, fans and authorities can honor him. One of the first, the president of FIFA, Gianni Infantino. “FIFA will undoubtedly honor the king as he deserves,” said the Swiss, reports Reuters, before revealing that the body has asked its 211 partner countries to name a stadium in tribute to Pele “so that the new generations will know him and remember”.
Neymar has sent his father on his behalf while he trains in France. And President Lula, a Corinthians fan who was able to enjoy the king’s art from the stands, is scheduled to attend the wake early this Wednesday morning. Pele’s coffin is exposed for 24 hours in the center of the pitch of the Vila Belmiro stadium, located in a popular neighborhood of this port city through which hundreds of thousands of immigrants entered, whom Brazil invited to populate its lands (and whiten the race ) after the end of slavery.
Claudio Nascimento da Rocha, 64, a train engineer inspector, was in line at eight in the morning with his son, grandson and nephews. Santista, he also saw him play. And even better, he was able to train close to his idol because he was a member of the Santos youth team when oh king he was in the final stretch of his Brazilian career. “They say that if he played today he would not score 1,000 goals [que hizo con el Santos], I disagree. I think he would do 3,000 because now you play on magnificent grass, light jerseys, good boots… in his time everything was more difficult. They marked him very hard, and he continued. Now, they throw themselves to the minimum”, says Da Rocha.
He says that the idol, who still has a box in the stadium, was kind to the youth players, he joked with them. And he proudly remembers that he had a brief scene in a documentary about Pele in which they shared passes. His grandson Kaiu Gregorio, 16, details that they have been able to see Edinho, Pele’s son and coach, carry the coffin on his shoulders. The king of soccer lies with an open coffin. He “he Has the countenance of a man at peace.” Impossible to stop, his tail does not stop advancing and most of those present dedicate the precious moment to immortalize it with their mobile.
The hundreds of Brazilians —families, men, women, the elderly and children— who stood in line for hours under a scorching sun for more than a kilometer, came above all to say goodbye to their neighbor, the man of flesh and blood with whom they or their majors ever crossed paths in life. Many wore the colors of Santos, black and white stripes. Most of them are residents of Santos, but they also come from the rest of the State of São Paulo or from much further afield.
With the faded photograph in hand, Ferreira Junior recalls that Pele was already Pele when they were studying together, in the early seventies. “He had two Mercedes, he came to class with imported sneakers, with Puma sports pants, also imported, but at the entrance to the college he never stopped greeting a black woman who was selling acaraje. [un plato tipico de Bahia]. ‘Good morning, aunt,’ she always told him. That marked me. He was simple even though he was an idol. Charismatic, he had a big heart, ”he explains before joining the queue to say his last goodbye to the former classmate who no longer participated in the annual meeting of the course last year.
Some people remember that his car had a license plate that said “a thousand goals” or that the headlights of one of those Mercedes that a chauffeur drove had windshield wipers. Small anecdotes for a man who was always attentive. Emerson Meneses, a 49-year-old taxi driver, says he was a teenager with a broken arm when he passed him on the street, who was with Xuxa, the famous television presenter. lately converted into a scourge of Bolsonaro. “I asked her to sign the cast, and she signed it for me,” she recalls with a smile.
Helcio Acioli Verissimo, 71, watched him play when he was 13. He was in Ileus, in the state of Bahia, near his hometown. “It was like from another planet. I was from Flamengo then. But Santos came to play a game and scored six goals, five of them from Pele. I threw away the Flamengo shirt Until today I am from Santos”, says this man, the proud grandfather of Gabriel Silva Miranda, a Santos U-20 player.
When the wake ends, at ten o’clock on Tuesday morning, the coffin will travel through the city to the house where the soccer player’s mother still lives, Mrs. Celeste, who recently turned one hundred years old. She no longer gets out of bed. The king will later be buried in the niche he bought 20 years ago in one of the largest vertical cemeteries in the world. Overlooking the Vila Belmiro lawn, where he was happy and made so many happy.
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Source: EL PAIS