Pele fans sleep on streets and arrive 14 hours before funeral to pay respects

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Pele fans sleep on streets and arrive 14 hours before funeral to pay respects
Pele fans sleep on streets and arrive 14 hours before funeral to pay respects

Football fans queued overnight to be the very first to file past the coffin of Pele later today.

Mirror Online spoke to the first five supporters in line who arrived outside the Santos football stadium 14 HOURS before gates opened. Rubbish collector Saulo Duarte was at the front of the queue.

Saulo, 36, had made the two hour journey from Sao Paulo by bus to pay his respects. He said: “Pele was Brazil’s greatest player and I wanted to be here to pay tribute to him. I never saw him play but my grandad did and it’s the right thing to do.”

The group just behind him were Lourivaldo Honorato, Emilio Carmo, Antonio Da Penha and Francielson De Assis. Carmo was the only one who had seen Pele on the pitch.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” he said. “It was Santos v Palmeiras and the match ended 1-1 and I was so pleased I was able to see Pele play a proper competitive match.”

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He added: “I didn’t know any of these guys until we met this morning. It’s going to be a special and emotional 24 hours. We will become friends for ever.”

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Pele fans sleep on streets and arrive 14 hours before funeral to pay respectsFans have waited for hours to pay their respects to Pele (Andy Stenning/Daily Mirror)

At the Cofraria do Alemao bar right outside Gate 8 at the stadium fans sat on plastic yellow seats drank Brahma beer and reminisced about their favourite Pele memories.

The owner Alberto Francisco, who has a tattoo of the Santos badge on his forehead, knew Pele as he has worked at the bar for 50 years. He allowed those queuing to use his toilets.

He said: “Pele was the greatest.”

Pele fans sleep on streets and arrive 14 hours before funeral to pay respectsPele's wake will be held at the stadium of his former club Santos (AFP via Getty Images)

Preparations for today have been taking place for many years. Dozens of probable toilets have been put in place A huge number of barriers have been brought in to control the crowds.

Journalists from across the globe had to visit a primary school just oitside the Santos stadium to pick up their accreditation wristbands.

The club president said he would never be forgotten. “Pelé did not die, Pelé is eternal and he will live in our hearts forever,” Andres Rueda said.

Pele fans sleep on streets and arrive 14 hours before funeral to pay respectsHearse carrying Pele's coffin arrives at Santos (Getty Images)

Gianni Infantino, president of Fifa, will attend the funeral tomorrow. His 1970 team-mates Jairzinho, Rivelino and Gerson are also expected to be in Santos.

Late today hundreds of thousands of people are expected to file past his coffin as it sits in the centre circle of the stadium. Then on Tuesday his funeral cortege will pass down the Santos suburb where his 100-year-old mother Dona Celeste still lives.

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She is in ill health and remains unclear if she will be strong enough to attend the family funeral. Celeste is looked after by daughter Maria Lucia do Nascimento, and has not been told about her son's death Marie said: 'We talk but she doesn't know the situation. She's in her own world.'

Andy Lines

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