Soccer Legend Pelé: Brazil World Cup Prep 'an Embarrassment'

Soccer Legend Pelé: Brazil World Cup Prep 'an Embarrassment'

Legendary soccer player Pelé is going public with his frustrations with the way his country is preparing to host the 2014 World Cup, calling delays on constructing stadiums “unacceptable” and “an embarrassment” for Brazil, and decrying the “thieves” in politics who have made the World Cup preparations controversial.

“I await with much illusion the [soccer] matches, but when I think about everything occurring around them, I worry. It is something that frustrates me,” Pelé said in comments to German magazine Bild, according to Infobae. He argued that it was “unacceptable that some stadiums are not ready. We had many years, more than enough time. It is an embarrassment.”

Pelé also commented on the protests surrounding the World Cup. Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets, objecting to the use of $15 billion in taxpayer funds for a recreational event, rather than investment in improving the country’s infrastructure or social programs. Protesters have also objected to the removal of many of Rio de Janeiro’s poor from favelas, or slums, surrounding the city and police abuses in the process of attempting to make the area suitable for tourism.

In comments translated by BBC, Pelé objected to the protests, noting that the players “have nothing to do with corrupt politicians and thieves.” He asserted, “People should have demonstrated when Brazil was chosen to organise the World Cup, and not now that the tournament is very soon.” 

He also noted that the protests hurt the country and take money from the political system that could be used to improve the country, as tourists may decline going to the World Cup because of violent elements within the protesting block. “We already know that 25 percent of foreigners who were going to Brazil are worried by the protest, and I think they have cancelled. … This is a great loss for the country,” Pelé stated. He added that he supported protests and free speech “as long as they protest pacifically.”

This is not the first time the soccer great has weighed in on his home country hosting the biggest event in the sport. In February, Pelé expressed concern about the delays, as well, noting that he had lobbied, as a Brazilian, for the event to come home. “I am sad because before winning the right to host the World Cup we spent four years making visits. I was one of those who went to various places in Africa, Asia, Europe seeking votes for Brazil to win hosting rights,” he said. He added that “we had time” to build stadiums and prepare for the event and that he could not explain the delays.

Pelé has also written a song for the World Cup because, he said, “I heard the one by Ricky Martin but I didn’t like it.” His song’s message is “to tell people not to boo the team.”

The World Cup is scheduled to begin on June 12.