Brazilians paid several tributes to soccer legend Pelé on Friday, one year after the three-time World Cup winner’s death at age 82 due to a colon cancer.
A ceremony held at Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the redeemer, one of the South American nation’s most famous postcard locations, featured a projection of a Brazil shirt with Pelé’s name and number 10 on the statue and a message from Pope Francis. Pelé was a devout Catholic throughout his life.
“Pelé, as Mr. Edson Arantes do Nascimento became globally known, was undoubtedly an athlete who showed in his life all positive traits of a sportsman. The memory of ‘the King of Soccer’ remains indelible in the minds of many, and it stimulates new generations to seek in sport a means to strengthen the bonds of unity among us,” the pontiff said in a letter as a local orchestra played.
Other religious ceremonies were held at the Museu Pelé in Santos, the port city he put on the map with his goals and success for Santos FC, and in the small city of Tres Corações, where do Nascimento was born in 1940.
Santos FC also held a tribute at its Vila Belmiro Stadium, where Edson Cholbi do Nascimento, one of Pelé’s sons, released 10 white ballons from the center circle. Pelé’s funeral was held at the stadium.
Soccer’s governing body FIFA also paid its respects with a video of highlights of the Brazilian great with a message: “Pelé’s legacy will always live on.”
Earlier this year, a Brazilian dictionary chose to pay a tribute to Pelé by adding his name as an adjective to use when describing someone who is “exceptional, incomparable, unique.”
The announcement by the Michaelis dictionary on Wednesday is part of a campaign that gathered more than 125,000 signatures to honor the late soccer great’s impact beyond his sport.
Pelé spent nearly two decades enchanting fans and dazzling opponents as the game’s most prolific scorer with Brazilian club Santos and the Brazil national team. In the conversation about soccer’s greatest, only the late Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are mentioned alongside.