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FIFA President Gianni Infantino gives his condolences to Marcia Aoki, the widow of Brazilian soccer great Pele

FIFA to ask every country to name a stadium in honour of football great Pele, Gianni Infantino says

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FIFA plans to ask every country in the world to name a stadium in honour of the late football legend Pele, its president Gianni Infantino has said.

The former Santos FC star, widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time, died on 29 December aged 82 after a battle with colon cancer since September 2021.

Mr Infantino, who is in Sao Paulo in Brazil for Pele‘s funeral, told local reporters: “We’re going to ask every country in the world to name one of their football stadiums with the name of Pele.”

Rio de Janeiro scrapped plans to name the famous Maracana Stadium after Pele after it was vetoed by the state governor in April 2021.

The football legend’s coffin was placed inside the Vila Belmiro stadium in his hometown of Santos on Monday, the home ground of the club where he scored some of the best goals of his career.

Mr Infantino released a statement on the day Pele died which read: “For everyone who loves the beautiful game, this is the day we never wanted to come. The day we lost Pele.”

He described Pele, whose real name was Edson Arantes do Nascimento, as an “exemplary sportsman” and added: “Pele had a magnetic presence and, when you were with him, the rest of the world stopped.

“His life is about more than football. He changed perceptions for the better in Brazil, in South America and across the world. His legacy is impossible to summarise in words.”

Thousands of fans lined up to pay their last respects to Pele.

Thousands of fans lined up to pay their last respects to Pele

He also told journalists on Monday: “I am here with a lot of emotion, sadness, but also with a smile because he gave us so many smiles. As FIFA, we will pay a tribute to the ‘King’ and we ask the whole world to observe a minute of silence.”

Fans line up during Pele's wake at the Vila Belmiro stadium.
Fans line up during Pele’s wake at the Vila Belmiro stadium

Meanwhile, mourners began paying their respects to Pele in a solemn procession past his coffin at Vila Belmiro, which was decorated with Brazilian flags and number 10 shirts that Pele made popular when he played for Santos and Brazil.

Pele died on 29 December

Bouquets of flowers filled up the stands after being placed by mourners and sent by clubs and star players – including Neymar and Ronaldo – from around the world.

Loudspeakers also played a song named Eu Sou Pele (I Am Pele) that was recorded by the football star himself.

His funeral took place at 10am local time, and the burial will take place on Tuesday.

About Charles Igbinidu

Charles Igbinidu is a Public Relations practitioner in Lagos, Nigeria

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