It was an awkward scenario that only Pele could have rescued with utmost grace. Ten minutes into the interaction, a journalist inevitably asked the Brazilian legend about the crisis that has gripped at FIFA. It’s an issue that Pele has carefully dodged so far in his India tour. He is on a leisure trip here. Courting controversy is the last thing on his agenda.
Understandably, the organizers did not want the FIFA controversy to overshadow their event. Pele is in Delhi for the final of the Subroto Cup, which will be played between India U-17 and Indonesia’s Daftar Nama Kontingen at the Ambedkar Stadium on Friday. They stopped the journalist from asking the question mid-way, resulting in protests. Before the situation could spiral out of control, Pele stepped in. “It’s a democracy. Let her ask the question,” he said smilingly.
Not waiting for the lady to finish her question, Pele himself continued: “Whatever is happening in FIFA, it is a shame. This is not due to football but due to some people involved in the FIFA. Of course, we are sorry about what happened now in FIFA,” Pele said.
“But, we cannot mix this (corruption scandal) with football. This is due to some people who administer football.” The corruption scandal at FIFA has led to the suspension of its president Sepp Blatter and European football governing body UEFA’s chief Michel Platini, who was the favourite to take over the reigns at the world governing body. Pele insisted that the ‘politicians’ in football are to be blamed for the scandal but the game itself has remain unaffected.
“It is easy to criticise things and say that these things have been happening in FIFA. But you should not forget that because of the FIFA, if you see football today, it is the most popular sport in the world. More and more people are playing football and the game is developing worldwide, be it in Asia, Africa, South America or anywhere. If you see in history, football has united people, and have saved people from drug abuse etc,” the 74-year-old said.
Pele, considered the greatest ever footballer, had said in Kolkata during his visit earlier this week that he was not interested in running for the FIFA presidency. However, he said his compatriot Zico has the courage to become the president. “If you are alone, you cannot do anything. I want a person who respects football and people. I spoke to (Michel) Platini, who is one of the great players. He told me he wanted to do some things but unfortunately he could not do them,” he said. “He is one of the players who have done a lot for football — in Japan and other countries. When he was playing, he was compared with me and he is known as ‘White Pele’. He wants to stand for FIFA presidency. I told him you have the courage but I don’t have that courage.”