The seaside home of the team nicknamed “Peixe” – “fish” in Portuguese – expects a large influx of fans seeking to honor the “King” of soccer, who died Thursday at age 82 after a long battle against cancer.
The stadium gates will open at 10:00 am local time (13:00 GMT). In the center of the field, the coffin will be exposed with the remains of the only player who has won three World Cups.
Known as Vila Belmiro after the neighborhood where it is located, the black and white stadium has a capacity for 16,000 people.
Three giant flags could be seen in the stands on Sunday, one with an image of Pelé wearing the famous number 10 on his shirt.
Another carried the message “Long live the king”; the third said simply: “Pele 82 years.”
Entry to the stadium will be allowed until 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, officials said.
After that, a procession will take place through the streets of Santos, a port city about 75 kilometers (47 miles) from the state capital of Sao Paulo.
The parade will pass by the home of Pelé’s mother, Celeste Arantes, 100, who is unaware that her world-famous son has died.
“She doesn’t know,” Pelé’s sister, Maria Lucia do Nascimento, told ESPN on Friday. “She’s not conscious.”
The procession will end at a Santos cemetery, where Pelé will be buried in a special mausoleum.
– Tributes to the ‘eternal’ star –
Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pelé is widely regarded as the greatest player yet of the beautiful game.
His death sparked a worldwide outpouring of tributes, with his native Brazil celebrating three days of national mourning.
He scored 1,283 goals in a 21-year career, most played for Santos.
The flower crowns left by his fans have given a touch of color to Vila Belmiro, which houses a bust and a statue of the soccer great.
Silvio Neves Souza, a vacationing electrician from Sao Paulo, took a moment on Sunday to visit the stadium as he will not be able to attend the official ceremony.
“I’m sure a lot of people will come to the wake, not just the old ones who saw him play, but also the young ones,” the 54-year-old said.
Elsewhere in the city, banners with Pelé’s face decorate another monument erected in his likeness.
“I loved the world with the ball at my feet,” read one sign.
At the headquarters of the Brazilian Football Confederation in Rio de Janeiro, a giant poster with the image of Pelé bears the word “eternal”.
And at the inauguration of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Sunday, the ceremony began with a minute’s silence in memory of Pelé.
Military police in Sao Paulo state, where street digital screens also honor the prolific striker, said there would be a “robust” rollout for posthumous tributes.
Security will be tightened at Sao Paulo’s Congonhas airport ahead of the expected arrival of crowds of athletes, politicians, dignitaries and fans for the wake.
– ‘The king’ –
Pelé had been hospitalized at the Albert Einstein Hospital for a month until his death on December 29.
“We were with him” on December 21, his sister recounted. “It was very calm, we talked a little, but I already sensed that he was feeling it, I already knew that he was leaving.”
Born on October 23, 1940, Pele grew up selling peanuts on the street to help his impoverished family.
He received his famous nickname after mispronouncing Bile, the name of a goalkeeper at Vasco de Sao Lourenco, where his footballer father once played.
Pelé burst onto the scene at the age of 15, when he began playing professionally for Santos.
At just 17 years old, he helped Brazil win its first World Cup, in 1958.
That was followed by World Cup titles in 1962 and 1970. The latter marked the pinnacle of his career as he starred in what many consider to be the greatest team of all time.
Pelé had been in increasingly fragile health in recent years.
He remained active on social media, cheering on Brazil during the World Cup in Qatar and consoling the pre-tournament favorites when they were knocked out in the quarterfinals just three weeks before his death.