Brazil has woken up to its first day without footballing legend Pele.
“The King”, who won three World Cups and was widely considered the greatest footballer of all time, died at the age of 82 in Sao Paulo on Thursday.
Overnight, Pele’s face shone on buildings across the South American nation and landmarks were lit up in his memory. Fans took to the streets dressed in his iconic number 10 shirt.
Brazil’s government has declared three days of national mourning.
Fans started gathering outside Sao Paulo’s Albert Einstein hospital on Thursday afternoon when they heard news of Pele’s death. Outside, a banner read “Eternal King Pele”.
Pele had been undergoing treatment for colon cancer since 2021. Knowing his condition was worsening, Brazilians had spent weeks reflecting on his life and legacy.
The hospital issued a statement confirming his death from multiple organ failure connected to his cancer.
But in a reflection of his status, the hospital added it shared the suffering felt by the family and everyone over the loss of “our beloved King of football”.
One man, standing outside the FIESP building in Sao Paulo as it displayed a colourful tribute, spoke of the intensity of feeling for Pele.
“It is indescribable to say at this moment what we are going through here; the loss,” Widisley Guimaraes told Reuters news agency.
Tributes have poured in for the late footballer, including from Brazil forward Neymar, who said: “Before Pele, football was only a sport.”
“Pele changed everything. He turned football into art, into entertainment. He gave a voice to the poor, to black people.”
France striker and Neymar’s Paris St-Germain team-mate Kylian Mbappe added “his legacy will never be forgotten”.
Pele scored a world record of 1,281 goals in 1,363 appearances during a 21-year career, including 77 goals in 92 matches for his country.
The only player to win the World Cup three times, lifting the trophy in 1958, 1962 and 1970, Pele was named Fifa’s Player of the Century in 2000.
But he was a cultural icon, too.
As a black man, Pele rose to the status of national treasure in a country with a deep history of slavery and legacy of segregation that persists.
Although he rarely talked about racism, he championed the power of football to bring the nation together.
Pele’s wake will be held on Monday at the Santos Football club – for many years, his home stadium.
The following day, his coffin will be carried through the streets of his coastal hometown Santos, before a private burial.