Brazil has entered three days of mourning following the death of soccer superstar Pelé.

The 82-year-old – the only man to win the World Cup three times as a player – died on Thursday after a long battle with cancer.

A 24-hour vigil will be held Monday at the center of the pitch at the stadium of Santos, the club in Pele’s hometown and where he started playing as a teenager.

On Tuesday there will be a parade carrying his coffin through the neighborhood where his 100-year-old mother lives, followed by a private burial.

Footballers, world leaders and artists are among those who have paid tribute to Pele.

Neymar, the Brazilian striker who equaled Pelé’s record 77 international goals at the last World Cup, said: “He’s gone but his magic remains. Pelé is forever.”

“Before Pelé, football was just a sport. Pelé changed everything.”

In a moving tribute on Instagram, Neymar added: “He turned football into art, into entertainment. He gave voice to the poor, to blacks and above all: He gave visibility to Brazil.

“Football and Brazil have raised their status thanks to the king! He is gone but his magic remains. Pelé is FOREVER!!”

Former US President Bill Clinton said Pelé was “not just a football legend, but also a humanitarian and global icon”.

“He has used his platform to empower disenfranchised children and inspire generations around the world.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said Pelé’s legacy will live on forever, writing on Twitter: “The game. The king. The eternity.”

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Image:
Fans gathered outside the Vila Belmiro stadium, where Pele started his football career. Photo: AP
A person stands in front of an image depicting Brazilian soccer legend Pele as people gather to mourn his death, in Santos, Brazil, December 29, 2022. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli

The government of Jair Bolsonaro, who ends his term as Brazil’s president on Sunday, said Pele was “a great citizen and patriot, raising the name of Brazil wherever he went”.

Mr Bolsonaro’s successor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, wrote on Twitter that “few Brazilians have taken our country’s name as far as he does”.

German football great Franz Beckenbauer said on Twitter: “Football lost the greatest in its history today – and I lost a unique friend.

“Football will be yours forever. Rest in peace Pele.”

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Pelé leaves ‘a void’, says FIFA chief

Former Brazilian striker Ronaldo said on Instagram: “Unique. Cool. Technical. Creative. Perfect. One of a kind.

“Where Pelé arrived, he stayed. Never leaving the top, he leaves us today. The king of football – only one The greatest of all time.

“The world of mourning. The sadness of separation mixed with the immense pride of written history.

“What a privilege to come after you my friend. Your talent is a school that every player should go through.

“Your legacy will transcend generations. And that’s how it will live on. Today and always, we celebrate you.”

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“Pelé was Elvis, he was Neil Armstrong”

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said: “Pélé had a magnetic presence and when you were with him the rest of the world stopped.

“His life is not just about football. He changed perceptions for the better in Brazil, South America and around the world.

“His legacy is impossible to sum up in words.

“Today we all mourn the loss of the physical presence of our dear Pelé, but he achieved immortality a long time ago and therefore he will be with us for eternity.”

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“Pelé was more than a footballer”

Gary Lineker tweeted: “Most divine of footballers and happiest of men.

“He played a game that only a chosen few have come close to.”

England World Cup winner Sir Geoff Hurst said: “For me, Pelé remains the greatest of all time and I was proud to be on the pitch with him. RIP Pelé and thank you. “

The famous Brazilian statue of Christ the Redeemer and the arches of Wembley Stadium in London have been lit up in Brazilian colors to commemorate the life of Pelé.

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