Brasilia,SANA- Brazil starts three days of national mourning on Friday for football legend Pele, the three-time World Cup winner widely regarded as the greatest player of all time, who has died at age 82.
The death of “The King” who transcended football triggered a wave of tributes around the globe from the sports world and also from political and cultural leaders.
Pele died Thursday at the Albert Einstein hospital in Sao Paulo after a long battle with cancer.
“We love you infinitely. Rest in peace,” daughter Kely Nascimento wrote on Instagram.
The football world — from his former teammates to current stars — came together to honor “O Rei”, who transformed the sport during a long professional career that began when he was still a teenager.
Brazil star Neymar said Pele “transformed football into an art.” France’s Kylian Mbappe said his legacy “will never be forgotten,” and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo called him an “inspiration to millions.”
Argentina’s World Cup-winning captain Lionel Messi wrote: “Rest in peace.”
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who declared three days of national mourning, paid tribute to a man who “transformed football into art and joy”, while president-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is due to take office Sunday, tweeted: “There had never been a number 10 like him.”
Pele is the only footballer in history to have won three World Cups — in 1958, 1962 and 1970.
He had been in increasingly fragile health, battling kidney problems and colon cancer — undergoing surgery for the latter in September 2021, followed by chemotherapy.
A wake will take place on Monday, followed by a funeral on Tuesday in Santos, the southeastern city where he played most of his career, his former club said.
The city declared seven days of mourning as fans flocked to the team’s stadium to leave flowers.
In front of the Sao Paulo hospital where he died, fans held up a banner which read: “Eternal King Pele.”
In Rio de Janeiro, the Christ the Redeemer statue which overlooks the city was illuminated in homage to Pele, as was the legendary Maracana stadium.