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World mourns Pele, the king of football

RIO DE JANEIRO: The Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro was illuminated in Pele's honour and even Nasa joined the countless tributes to the late Brazilian football icon which were still pouring in on Friday.

"He became the first mythical figure in sport," Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung said, while French sports daily L'Equipe simply said "He was a king," over a full-page photo of a young Pele.

Pele, the only player to win the World Cup three times, died on Thursday at age 82 in a Sao Paulo hospital after battling colon cancer.

Named The King (of football), his death creating an immense outpouring of grief in his native Brazil, around the world and beyond the football community, and in space.

"We mark the passing of the legendary Pelé, known to many as the king of the 'beautiful game.' This image of a spiral galaxy in the constellation Sculptor shows the colours of Brazil," Nasa tweeted late on Thursday along with a photo of the galaxy.

Former US president Barack Obama tweeted alongside a photo of him and Pelé: "Pelé was one of the greatest to ever play the beautiful game. And as one of the most recognisable athletes in the world, he understood the power of sports to bring people together."

Outgoing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has ordered three days of national mourning, and his successor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva also took to Twitter to pay tribute.

"I had the privilege that the younger Brazilians didn't have: I saw Pelé play, live, in Pacaembu and Morumbi. Not playing. I saw Pelé put on a show," he said.

"He left a certainty: there has never been a shirt number 10 like him. Thank you, Pelé."

Pele's former club Santos said that the funeral would be held on Tuesday in his home city of Santos among close relatives. The coffin is to be placed on the pitch of the Santos stadium for the public to pay their respects after arriving from Sao Paulo on Monday.

Rio's Maracana and London's Wembley Stadium were lit up in the honour of Pelé, whom German football federation president Bernd Neuendorf named "an icon for generations" and Newcastle manager Eddie Howe an"absolute giant."

Germany coach Hansi Flick said "there has never been a better player than Pelé.

"For me he was and is the king of football. His game was close to perfection, he was complete, had no weaknesses," Flick said. "Pelé could do everything." -- dpa

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