RIO DE JANEIRO - Hundreds of Brazilians yesterday bade a fond farewell to the country's first World Cup-winning skipper, Hilderaldo Luiz Bellini.
Bellini died on Thursday after a long illness at the age of 83 but remains an iconic figure in the five-time winners' World Cup history.
The former defender was laid to rest in his home city of Itapira in Sao Paulo state after hundreds had filed past to pay their respects.
His body had been taken overnight to the Morumbi stadium of Sao Paulo, for whom he played for six years after starting out with Rio's Vasco da Gama.
Fans saluted Bellini's coffin, draped in the national flag as well as his clubs' colours, as the funeral cortege made its way to the cemetary.
"He was honest, a friend, serious, a great person," said former Sao Paulo teammate Baba.
Bellini had battled Alzheimer's in recent years and died in a Sao Paulo hospital three years after he suffered a stroke which left him unable to speak.
Brazilian football historian Juca Kfouri credits the defender with being the first World Cup skipper to lift the trophy high into the air — the gesture has become an integral part of the winning ceremony.
A 1960 statue of Bellini, who won 51 caps for his country, shows him holding the original Jules Rimet trophy aloft — one-handed — outside the Maracana Stadium.
After starring alongside a teenage Pele in Sweden, Bellini won the trophy again in Chile four years later, though by then the son of an Italian truck driver was just a squad member.