Pele deemed 'traitor of the century' by angry compatriots
Friday, 14th March 2014 at 02:20am
Brazilian football legend Pele has been called the 'traitor of the century' by his fellow Brazilians for lending his support to the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil.
Pele has become the target for the ire of his fellow countrymen after appealing for calm ahead of June's finals after last year's Confederations Cup was disrupted by protests.
It is a sharp and surprising decline for the country's greatest ever player and something previously thought unimaginable given he helped lead Brazil to three World Cup titles during his playing career.
Many of Brazil's 193 million-strong population are angry that the country is spending so much money on this summer's finals (8 billion) and the Rio 2016 Olympics (11 billion) rather than on improving the standard of living within the country.
On Tuesday night in Rio de Janeiro, 150 protesters took to the street to denounce the 2014 World Cup.
"There will be no Cup," angry demonstrators chanted, holding up a banner that read "Pel, traitor of the century".
Ronaldo, another Brazilian striking legend, has also become a similar target for abuse as he, like Pele, sits on the Brazil 2014 organising committee.
As a result, the pair have been dubbed "enemies of the people".
"They [Pel and Ronaldo] were great players but now they are out of touch - it's a shame," said one 32-year-old woman at the rally.
Earlier in the week, Pele had appealed for his compatriots to keep the peace during the 31-day tournament.
"As a Brazilian I feel sorry because you have two or three big opportunities to showcase the country - the Confederations Cup, the World Cup and the Olympic Games. I think this will be a great opportunity to show the country, to make money, to get tourism," said Pel, an honorary ambassador for the tournament. "And it's important that the demonstrations do not damage everything, so we are going to work hard."
By contrast, Romario, yet another former Brazilian superstar turned congressman, has launced another scathing attack on the Fifa hierarchy after he was labeled "the worst person in the world" by general secretary Jerome Valcke.
At a congressional hearing, Romario responded by saying: "'We can't expect anything from FIFA, where we have a blackmailer called Valcke and a corrupt thief and son of a bitch called Blatter."
The 1994 Fifa Player of the Year continued his tirade on his official website, suggesting that "Brazilian authorities shouldn't trust [Valcke] when signing any deal related to the World Cup ... I wouldn't trust him if I had to give him 10 reals to buy me bread and milk".
"We have spent an absurd amount for the World Cup and going forward it will get even worse. Brazil has a lot of thieves, that's the truth ... Now we have to cheer for Brazil to win on the field because it would be perfect for football but off the pitch we've already lost and there is no way to reverse it."