The Brazilian barber who cut Pele’s hair for more than 60 years is lamenting the loss of both a customer and a close friend.
Joao Araujo, whose nickname is Didi, has his shop not far from the stadium where the football legend once played for the Santos team.
On Monday and Tuesday, that arena is expected to receive throngs of mourners hoping to pay their respects to Pele, who died of cancer on Thursday at the age of 82.
“We have lost a very big symbol. Brazil has lost, and the world has lost,” Araujo, who is 84, said after cutting the hair of a teenager wearing a Santos T-shirt.
“And Didi lost a big customer, a great friend,” he added, as onlookers stood outside his well-known shop, peering in.
The walls are decorated with photos of Pele playing in big games, as well as a few shots that bear witness to a very long friendship.
In one shot, in black and white, Araujo and Pele are seen as young men; another, in color, shows them as young no more.
– The Pele hair-do –
The barber’s shop feels much like a museum, paying homage to the football player widely considered the best ever.
The black-and-white sign outside, bearing the two shields that are the symbol of the Santos team, gives people an idea of what awaits them inside, billing Araujo as “Pele’s barber and yours, too.”
The friendship goes back 66 years. When Pele was just 16, the future Number 10 on the football pitch sought out someone in this port city who could tame his thick mass of hair.
And he found Araujo, a diehard fan of Santos who was from Pele’s home state of Minas Gerais.
“I remember when he got here. He was a little boy. Nobody thought much of him. We just thought he was a good player, not a king. But the guy became a king and died as a king,” the barber said.
The teen, whose full name was Edson Arantes do Nascimento, emerged from his first sitting with Araujo boasting the neat, trim look he would sport for much of his life, including when he led Brazil to World Cup victories in 1958 and 1962. (Brazil won it a third time in 1970, but Pele’s head was more shaved that time.)
“He liked it a lot, and I cut his hair until the day he died,” said Araujo, who reckons he cut Pele’s hair more than 1,000 times — almost as many as the man’s 1,283 goals.
Even after Pele stopped playing, he frequented Araujo’s barber shop, causing passersby to stop in their tracks and gawk at the football legend.
When Pele’s health started to fail him, Araujo would go to his house in the nearby town of Guaruja.
– ‘He would always call’ –
Araujo cut Pele’s hair for a final time last year, before the legend – the only person to win the World Cup three times – began suffering serious health problems from colon cancer detected in September 2021.
“He would always call and I would go,” said Araujo, recalling their chats about football as he trimmed and snipped. “But for some time he had been very sick and I did not go anymore.”
These days photographers and camera operators film Araujo as he does his meticulous work, with just a few days until Brazilians say their last goodbyes.
Araujo said he was saddened by the loss of his friend and customer, whom he charged the same as anyone else – 40 reales, or about $7.