“It was done with great love by the people who knew him, who lived with him. That’s the essence of who he was,” said one of Pele’s sons.

SANTOS, Sao Paulo state – The mausoleum built for Pele’s golden casket was opened to visitors on Monday.

On the second floor of the vertical cemetery in Santos, outside São Paulo, the mausoleum greets worshipers with two golden statues of Pele; the floor is artificial grass; walls – images of fans in the stadium; and there is an endless soundtrack of cheers as if Pele is still playing. The ceiling above the coffin of the three-time world champion is blue.

Pele was buried here on January 3, five days later he died at the age of 82 from colon cancer.

“It was done with great love by the people who knew him, who lived with him. That’s the essence of who he was,” Edson Cholbi do Nascimento, one of Pele’s sons, said after a small ceremony with family and friends.

The mausoleum was planned by the cemetery owner Pepe Alstut, who died in 2018.

Alstut had hoped the mausoleum would be on the ninth floor, overlooking the stadium of Santos club Villa Belmir, where Pele starred for 18 years. Instead, his family buried him on the second floor so fans could have better access.

“I’m shaking. The energy of the place is surreal,” said a tearful Erica Nascimento, a 42-year-old economist.

Former footballer Roberto Milan, 56, was also moved.

“He is a part of my life,” Milano said. – As we get older, we need better role models. He was perhaps the biggest role model.”

Fans wishing to attend should make a reservation on the Memorial Cemetery website.

Pele led Brazil to the World Cup in 1958, 1962 and 1970. He is the only player to win it three times. Last month, the Brazilian dictionary added “Pelé” as an adjective to describe someone who “exclusive, incomparable, unique.” Michaelis’ dictionary ad was part of a campaign that has garnered more than 125,000 signatures to celebrate the late football great’s influence.

AP reporter Mauricio Savarese in Sao Paulo contributed.


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