Santos retire Pelé's No. 10 jersey until club is promoted

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No player of Brazil's Santos team will wear the number 10 jersey made globally famous by the late Pelé as long as the club plays in the country's second division, the new club president said Saturday.

Marcelo Teixeira, elected on Saturday as Santos' president, said he made the decision as a tribute to the club's biggest star, who died on Dec. 29, 2022, at 81 due to colon cancer.

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"Until Santos is back in Serie A, which is its standard, we will not play with the number 10 shirt," said Teixeira, who was Santos' president on two previous occasions.

"This year's Brazilian league was named after King Pelé. We will continue in this mission. We will be back in the top division, but until then, we won't wear our most glorious shirt."

Every match of this year's Brazilian league celebrated Pelé in the 10th minute of play, in a reference to the number on the shirt that he wore for Santos and Brazil.

Teixeira, a businessman, beat four rivals and ended with 53% of the vote to return to the presidency at Santos on Jan. 1. Years ago, he suggested the club should retire Pelé's "10" for good, but the three-time World Cup winner himself said he didn't want that to happen.

"This should have been a party of democracy, but this moment is not adequate for celebrations," Teixeira told Santos club members after the vote. "We need to be united from now on so we can have the opportunity to put Santos back at its level."

Santos president Andrés Rueda, who did not vote due to fears of angry supporters, published an apology video on social media on Friday.

Santos has had a troubled week since its 2-1 home loss to Fortaleza on Wednesday, which led to its first relegation. Fans burned cars and buses that night, broke into the Vila Belmiro Stadium the next day and earlier Saturday caused brawls at the club as the vote for president went on.

Santos is now in debt, politically divided, searching for new heroes and gloomy about its future with less money in the second division as Brazil's soccer becomes increasingly more competitive and expensive.

When Pelé started playing at Santos, the "10" shirt was just one among many, with no special meaning. After his started shining for the club and for Brazil's national team, top players all over the world started picking that number as their own, including Diego Maradona, Zinedine Zidane and Lionel Messi.