Pele responds to protesters that called him a “traitor”
The 73 year-old has been seen to be increasingly aligned with FIFA and Brazil’s vast overspending and was last week targeted by a group of about 150 protesters that gathered in Rio.
Pelé, who led his country to three World Cup titles between 1958 and 1970, last year criticised rallies being held in Brazil during the Confederations Cup and urged his compatriots to “forget all the commotion and remember how the Brazilian squad is our country and our blood”.
This advice did not go down well, with large swathes of the populations backing the protesters’ demands for better public transport, health care and security.
Pelé has moved to clarify his position following the protests directed at him last week.
“I now have a little problem there because I was against the protests aimed at the players and team. The corruption was not with the players, but with the political people. Some journalists did not understand me when I asked the protesters: ‘Do not boo the players; do not boo the Brazilian team,’” Pelé told The National at a conference in Dubai on Sunday.
“If the corruption does damage to the country, it is not our fault because football and the national team is the most important income to Brazil. I agree that the people need hospitals, I agree they need better lives, but I cannot agree with them booing the players. This is a political issue with the politicians who rob the people. That’s what I was trying to say.”
Pelé expects a repeat of last year's demonstrations to take place at this year’s World Cup, especially if the team fail to perform.
“We had a problem there before and during the Confederations Cup with a lot of protests. Fortunately, Brazil won [the tournament] and everything calmed down. We are going to have the same problem at the World Cup because if everything goes normal, things will be calm, but if Brazil has a difficult game and things do not go so well, we could see problems and they [the protesters] will use that.”
“I am against such protests because the players do not have anything do with the corruption.”