'Played today to honor him': Brazil pays tribute to Pele at United Cup
The world mourned on Friday after learning football icon Pele had passed away and the news hit close to home for Brazils United Cup team, which battled hard to honour the legend, here.
The three-time World Cup winner Pele passed away on Thursday at the age of 82 after losing a long battle against cancer. Tributes have poured in for the legendary footballer from across the world and Brazil has declared three days of national mourning.
"I think everybody, not just us, but Brazil and the whole world is going to miss him. He's got a great personality and he's a great ambassador for football, but also for sport in general. He managed to get people united, which I think is what we're trying to do with this tournament," Brazil's Luisa Stefani said after her mixed doubles win alongside Rafael Matos at the United Cup.
"We played today to honour him and to celebrate him because that's what he did. He played with his heart, he showed love to everybody, so that's what Team Brazil is going to do not only today but for the rest of the tournament and the rest of the year. So thanks Pele, rest in peace," she added.
Thiago Monteiro, Brazil's No. 1 men's singles player, reflected on Pele's impact on his day-to-day life.
"Pele, he has a huge legacy in the sport. We call him ‘The King' because of the history that he has in football and for me personally, I always try to get inspired by him with the love that he showed playing football and [doing so] professionally. Also he did everything with such energy and such passion that I just try to keep this to myself and tried to follow this path the way he did," Monteiro said.
"Today is obviously a sad day for us, a sad day for Brazil. I think the most important thing is he made everybody in our country happy and he was such an inspiration for many, many generations. He has a big legacy, maybe the best one in the sport for us. He was our hero. He's still our hero for [a long] time to come," he added.
Former doubles World No. 1 Marcelo Melo is not competing in the United Cup, but the 39-year-old echoed the sentiments of his compatriots.
"Today unfortunately is a very sad day in Brazil, all over the world. Pele has passed away. Pele was an icon, an idol not only for Brazil but all over the world," Melo said.
For kids, he inspired so many, many people to start to play soccer, to do sports. He represented Brazil in so many good ways. All over the world, [people] recognise him as maybe the best soccer player.
Unfortunately he left us today, but for sure he's going to continue inspiring many, many kids to start to play soccer, to believe they can achieve like him," he added.
Former doubles World No. 2 Bruno Soares, who retired last season, added that while it is a sad day for Brazil, it is a day to celebrate Pele's legacy and life.
"Pele is the biggest idol we have not only in sports, but in general. He's an incredible person, a beautiful human being. Even my generation and most of the people around me, we didn't even get to see him play," Soares said.
"But it's been incredible to witness his legacy and everything that he brought to sports and to Brazil, always carrying the flag and representing the Brazilian people with so much love and so much pride. Today's a sad day, but a day to celebrate his life because Pele is 'The King'. There's only going to be one," he added.