After a 24-hour public wake, funeral processions began today for Brazilian soccer legend, Pelé, who passed away on December 29 after a long battle with colon cancer. Following farewells from the the public—many of whom waited hours to pay their respects—as well as Brazil’s president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the three-time World Cup champion was taken to his final resting spot: Memorial Necrópole Ecumênica, the tallest cemetery in the world.
Carried at times by his son Edinho as well as army soldiers, Pelé’s chosen resting spot is both unique and undeniably fitting. Located on the ninth floor of a vertical cemetery, which holds crypts as well as a crematorium, mausoleum, and rooms to hold services, Pelé’s burial location looks out over Urbano Caldeira Stadium, the home field of the Santos Football Club, for which the athlete played for 18 years. The modernist-leaning white building, which appears in some ways like a tropical resort, first opened 1984. It was founded by Pepe Altstut, an Argentinean businessman, and, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, has carried the record for tallest cemetery since it was constructed.
Known as “the king of soccer,” the Brazilian superstar is the only person to have won the World Cup three separate times—first in 1958, then again in 1962 and 1970. After joining the Santos Football Club at just 15 years old, he scored over 1,000 goals in his career. Before being laid to rest, his public wake was held in the same stadium he’ll eternally watch over, which is also known as Vila Belmiro. The procession carried the player through his home city, including a trip passed his mother’s house, who is now 100 years old. As thousands gathered for the emotional tribute, Brazil’s president reflected on not only the athlete’s career but also on the person he was. “It’s an irreparable loss for Brazil,” said Lula da Silva, according to Reuters. “Pelé, in addition to being the best soccer player in the world, was a humble, simple man.”