‘Long live the king!’
Fans of football superstar Pele congregated Sunday outside the Sao Paulo hospital where the 82-year-old Brazilian icon is being treated for a respiratory infection.
More than 100 devotees prayed for the recovery of the man widely regarded as the greatest footballer of all time.
The three-time world champion had been hospitalized on Tuesday amid ongoing treatments for colon cancer, a condition first diagnosed in September 2021.
"We are a spiritual force" praying for the sporting idol as he wages "one of the toughest battles of his life," one fan, Marcos Bispo dos Santos, told AFP.
Doctors at Sao Paulo's Albert Einstein Hospital said Saturday that Pele -- born Edson Arantes do Nascimento -- remained "stable."
Pele "has had a good response to care without any worsening in the clinical picture in the last 24 hours," they said in a statement.
The star later struck an optimistic note in an Instagram post, saying, "My friends, I want to keep everyone calm and positive. I'm strong, with a lot of hope and I follow my treatment as usual."
On Sunday, his fans stood mostly in silence outside the clinic in the Morumbi neighborhood of western Sao Paulo, holding a banner bearing an image of a youthful Pele and marked "Torcida Joven" ("Young Fans").
"Long live the king!" said several posters pasted on walls near entrances to the hospital.
Around noon, the fans formed a circle and held hands as they recited an "Our Father."
On Saturday, the daily Folha de S.Paulo reported that Pele was no longer responding to chemotherapy and was now receiving only "palliative care," as ESPN Brazil had reported days earlier.
The hospital and Pele's family have not confirmed this.
But amid the reports about the alleged deterioration of the star's health, concern was growing both in Brazil's football world and among ordinary Brazilians.
"We are here to give him strength, so that the king of football can recover," said Maicon Peterson who, along with his two-year-old son, was part of the vigil outside the hospital.
"We are suffering a lot, but God willing, he will make it through this."