A mausoleum built for the golden coffin of Pele has opened for visitors more than five months after the Brazilian football legend died of colon cancer.
The mausoleum, located on the second floor of a high-rise cemetery in Santos, outside Sao Paulo, opened on Monday and welcomes visitors with two golden statues of Pele and an artificial grass turf.
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Its walls feature images of fans in a stadium with an endless soundtrack of cheers playing in the background.
Considered one of – if not the – greatest football player of all time, Pele was laid to rest in January after a funeral that saw hundreds of thousands of people come to Santos to pay their respects, including Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
“This was made with a lot of love by people who knew him, who lived with him. It has the essence of what he was,” Edson Cholbi do Nascimento, one of Pele’s sons, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency after a small ceremony with family and friends.
Pele, who was known as “The King”, is the only player to win the World Cup three times. He lifted the coveted trophy in 1958, 1962 and 1970.
In 2000, the world football governing body, FIFA, named him player of the century jointly with Argentina’s Diego Maradona, who died in 2020.
The International Olympic Committee also declared Pele “athlete of the century” in 1999.
After retiring in 1977, Pele served as “champion for sport” for the United Nations cultural organisation, UNESCO, helping promote physical education across the world. He also supported UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, as a goodwill ambassador.
He died on December 29 at the age of 82 after a long battle with cancer. The mausoleum was planned by the owner of the cemetery, Pepe Alstut, who died in 2018.
Alstut hoped the mausoleum would be on the ninth floor, overseeing the Santos club’s Vila Belmiro Stadium, where Pele starred for 18 years. The player’s family, instead, buried him on the second floor so fans could have better access.
“I am shaking. The energy of this place is surreal,” Erica Nascimento, a tearful 42-year-old economist, told AP.
Former footballer Roberto Milano, 56, was also moved.
“He is part of my life,” Milano said. “As we grow old, we need to follow the best role models. Maybe he was the biggest of them all.”
Last month, a Brazilian dictionary added “Pele” as an adjective describing someone who is “exceptional, incomparable, unique”.
The announcement by the Michaelis dictionary was part of a campaign that gathered more than 125,000 signatures to honour the late footballer.