Brazil mourns Pelé, who made all parts of the country proud

Bocaina de Minas, BRAZIL — Down a dirt road in the mountains of Minas Gerais, Pelé’s hometown, Jorge Tavares received news of the star’s death from a 4 a.m. news release.

As a boy, Tavares and his cousins ​​listened to Pelé’s World Cup matches on the radio. His brilliant performance inspired them to play a game they had never seen before, using a sock and string ball at first.

“He left a legacy, a man of color was crowned king of football, and he also brought a lot of peace outside of Brazil,” said Tavares, a 67-year-old van driver, at the wire fence. barbed wire outside. his house. “He represented Brazil in front of people abroad.”

With Pelé’s death, Brazilians have lost a piece of their heart.

On Rio de Janeiro’s Ipanema beach, the news broke as Paulo Vinicius was playing soccer with his 9-year-old grandson.

Vinicius, 38, a physical education instructor, said: “Pelé represents the best of Brazil: the people, the working class. “Pelé gives a sense of identity to the Brazilian people.”

Roseli Augusto, 55, was at her small bar in the mountains of Minas Gerais when she heard the news.

“Pelé is an idol, the best player in the world,” said Augusto. She recalls her father taking a bus to the coastal city of Santos to watch Pelé play. “Many kids, many players have been inspired by him. He is our biggest sports idol.”

As a girl, Lucia Cunha listened to Pelé’s feats at the World Cup while gathering around the radio station with her siblings. She had read about him in the newspapers used to wrap bread.

“He was an icon of football, a great player, a simple, humble man, a man of God, a good man who did everything he could,” said Cunha.

In Santos, 18-year-old Nicolas Oliveira was outside the stadium with about 200 other people. Oliveira says that even replays of Pelé’s sensational play left him deeply moved.

“Pelé is a Negro from the interior of the state of Minas Gerais,” said Oliveira. “I’m here for what he did, for the football he played, for the football he has improved upon and for the future players he has helped shape and inspire. .”

Everton Luz, a 41-year-old lawyer, cried outside the hospital with the Santos flag wrapped around him. He has come straight from the workplace to pay tribute to the player whose performances have excited his father and sparked decades of stories.

Luz recounts those stories to his two children and shows them videos of the idol. He recalls once meeting Pelé in person while watching a match at a stadium.

Luz said: “We approached his box and he waved goodbye. “He’s an example of Brazilians, of what we can be.”


Biller reports from the state of Minas Gerais. AP writer Carla Bridi contributed from Sao Paulo.


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