Thousands queued to pay their respects to Pelé at a public wake staged at Santos FC's stadium ©Getty Images

Thousands of fans have mourned the death of Pelé at a public wake to begin the funeral of the legendary former Brazilian footballer.

Pelé died at the age of 82 on Thursday (December 29), and is lying in state at the Estádio Urbano Caldeira in Santos for a 24-hour period up to 10am local time tomorrow.

The stadium also known as Vila Belmiro was decorated with Brazilian flags and the famous number 10 shirt worn by Pelé for Santos and Brazil.

Banners including one which read "Viva o Rei", meaning "Long Live the King" in English, formed part of the backdrop to proceedings.

Some fans queued overnight to pay their respects, and fireworks were set off as his body was moved from the Albert Einstein Jewish Hospital in São Paulo.

Family members, including Pelé's widow Marcia Aoki and son Edinho, who also played for Santos, stood over the coffin, with FIFA President Gianni Infantino among those who consoled them.

Infantino said he was "here with a lot of emotion, sadness, but also with a smile because he gave us so many smile".

South American Football Confederation President and FIFA vice-president Alejandro Domínguez, Brazilian Football Confederation President Ednaldo Rodrigues, FIFA deputy secretary general for football Mattias Grafström and former Moroccan international Houssine Kharja were also part of the global governing body's delegation in attendance.

Railings were established five metres from the open coffin, and mourners brought flowers to fill the stands of the stadium.

One banner at the Estádio Urbano Caldeira read
One banner at the Estádio Urbano Caldeira read "Long Live the King" ©Getty Images

The song Eu Sou Pelé, translated to I am Pelé and written by the Brazilian star, played over the loudspeakers.

Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes attended the wake, and declared, "It is a very sad moment, but we are now seeing the real meaning of this legendary player to our country."

Returning Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and vice-president Geraldo Alckmin, who is a Santos supporter, are both expected to travel to the memorial.

Santos FC reported that 5,000 journalists had been accredited to cover the 24-hour event.

Current Brazilian men's national team star Neymar, who shares the joint-top scorer status with Pelé on 77 goals, sent a floral wreath, but his father attended the funeral on his behalf as he was unable to travel from France, where he plays for Paris Saint-Germain.

São Paulo state military police prepared a special public order operation called the "King Pelé Operation".

Pelé's death came after one month in hospital for a respiratory infection and "re-evaluation of the chemotherapy treatment over colon cancer identified in September 2021".

Widely considered one of the greatest footballers of all time, Pelé remains the only player to have won the FIFA World Cup three times, which he achieved with Brazil in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

He remains the youngest player to lift the World Cup at the age of 17 in Sweden in 1958, as well as the youngest scorer and hat-trick scorer in the tournament's history.

Pelé's overall goalscoring record is subject to some debate, but he is renowned as a prolific finisher and netted 680 goals in official matches in club football.

This covered 643 for Santos from 1956 to 1974, and 37 for New York Cosmos in the United States at the end of his career from 1975 to 1977.

In politics, Pelé's served as Brazil's Minister of Sports from 1995 to 1998.

He helped Brazil to secure hosting rights for the Olympic and Paralympic Games for the first time, travelling to Copenhagen for the International Olympic Committee Session in 2009 where Rio de Janeiro won a four-city race.

Pelé was named Athlete of the Century by the IOC in 1999, and presented with the Olympic Order by IOC President Thomas Bach in Santos in 2016.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino, right, attended the wake and consoled Pelé's family, including son Edinho, centre ©Getty Images
FIFA President Gianni Infantino, right, attended the wake and consoled Pelé's family, including son Edinho, centre ©Getty Images

However, he missed the Opening Ceremony of Rio 2016 due to poor health, having been considered likely to be chosen to light the Olympic Cauldron.

Among Pelé's other accolades, he was named FIFA Player of the Century in 2000, jointly with Argentinian Diego Maradona.

A three-day period of national mourning was declared by outgoing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro following Pelé's death.

The controversial far-right leader Bolsonaro has flown to the US following the end of his term, but credited Pelé with having "turned football into art and joy" in expressing his condolences last week.

His successor Lula, who was previously Brazilian President from 2003 to 2010, said that "few Brazilians carried the name of our country as far as he did" in his tribute to Pelé.

After the conclusion of the wake tomorrow, a procession is set to be held carrying the coffin through the streets of Santos before Pelé's burial at the Ecumenical Memorial Necropolis cemetery in a private ceremony.